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CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 



CABINET GOVERNMENT 
IN INDIA 

BY 

R. J. VENKATESWARAN 


LONDON 

GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD 



FtKSr ruiLfSHEO IN 1967 


Thil book b copyriekt under tke E^mc Convcntton. 
Apart from any fair Jlralint for Ike purpotei of 
prrvau ttudy, rtteatch, eriit^m or review, u 
permitted under the Copyngkt Art, f9s6. no portion 
may be produetd by any process without written 
permietion. In^uiriee ehouti be mode to the 
pablithers. 

© K. f. Venkateiworon 1967 


rniNTED IN CSEAT BRITAIN 
in II point fuliana type 

BT THE BLACXPRtARS PRESS LTD 
LEICESTER 



To My Mother 




PREFACE 


Since the Indian Constitution came into operation about sixteen 
years ago. many scholarly studies have appeared on various 
aspects of its working. But, so far as I am aware, no attempt has 
been made till now to analyse in detail the actual working of the 
Central Cabinet. 

Michael Brecher, in his brilliant biography of Jawaharlal 
Nehru, has described the role of the Cabinet in Indian demo- 
cracy but his treatment of this subject is brief. Moreover, his 
book was published about six years ago. 

The book, leadership and Political /nstitutions in India, edited 
by Richard L. Park and Irene Tinker, contains an interesting 
chapter on the Indian Cabinet of 1956. But it deals more with 
the human aspects of ministers than with their constitutional 
position. We are told, for instance, that nineteen ministers had 
a total of seventy-seven children of whom thirty-seven were sons 
and forty daughters. 

The proper working of the Cabinet is of the greatest impor- 
tance because on it depends largely the efficiency of administra- 
tion and the progress of the country. There is at present a keen 
anxiety, on the part of the people in India and abroad, to know 
how the Indian Cabinet has bwn carrying on the affairs of the 
world's largest deraoaacy. It will, therefore, be worthwhile to 
study to what extent the cabinet system, largely modelled on 
that of Britain, has taken root in India and how far we have been 
able to follow British precedents and conventions. 

Although this book deals mainly with the working of the In- 
dian Cabinet since the attainment of independence, I have given 
at the outset a chapter, explaining how the Central Government 
was carried on from the days of the Mauryan emperors to the 
time of Lord Mountbatten. The Mauryas, the Guptas, the 
Moguls and the British rulers did not have any cabinet system 
of government but the way they chose their ministers, allocated 
work, took decisions and conducted the administration, is of 
considerable historical interest. 

My original intention was to write a book on the working of 
the Cabinet under Nehru. But by the time I completed the 
manuscript, Nehru died. I, therefore, decided to wait for some 
9 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

time until his successor had settled himself as the Prime Minister. 
Unfortunately, however, when the book was about to go to the 
press, came the sudden death of Lai Bahadur Shastri. The publi* 
cation, therefore, was delayed a little hut this has enabled me to 
include a chapter dealing with (he election of Mrs Indira Gandhi. 
The book thus covers the working of the Cabinet under three 
Prime Ministers — ^Nehru, Shastri and Mrs Indira Gandhi. 

I trust this book will help to focus attention on the strong and 
weak points of the Indian Cabinet and create a better under- 
standing of the working of the most important organ of the 
Government of India. 

My thanks are due to the staff of the National library and 
the library of the British Council, Calcutta, as well as to my 
friends who helped me in one way or the other in the prepara- 
tion of this boob 

I wish to add that the views expressed in this book are mine 
and do not necessarily represent the institutions with which I am 
connected. 

R. J. Venkatesvaran 

Calcutta 

October 15, 1966 



CONTENTS 


PREFACE 9 

I From Mauryas to Moxintbatten 13 

n Figbt for Portfolios 24 

III Quintessence of the Constitution 28 

IV How the Cabinet Votks 40 

V Keystone of Cabinet Arch 52 

VI Remarkable Resignations 73 

VII Relations with Rashtnpathi 94 

Vin Planning Commission — Super Cabinet? 109 
rx How Many Ministers? 122 

X After Nehru — Shastri 127 

XI Courage and Caution 140 

XU Indira at the Helm 163 

XIII What Prospects for Indian Democncy? 174 
APPENDIX 196 

BIBLIOGRAPHY IpS 

INDEX 199 



CHAPTER I 


FROM MAURYAS TO 
MOUNTBATTEN 


Chandragupta Maur)-a (322 B.C-298 B.c) is generally regarded 
as the first historical emperor of India. His vast empire, with 
Pataliputra as the capital, covered (he whole of North India and 
part of Afghanistan. He was a great warrior and vigorous ruler. 
We know a good deal of his administration from the writings of 
his adviser ^utilya who was a crafty statesman and shrewd 
obsco’cr. 

The King was indeed all powerful. He was assisted by a council 
of ministers. In fact, from very ancient limes, kings were always 
advised never to rule by themselves however strong and learned 
they might be. Authorities on Hindu law are unanimous In their 
emphasU on the need for minbters to guide, to warn and to 
encourage the kings. 

Kautiiya gives in his Arthasastra interesting details regarding 
the number of ministers a king should have, their qualifications, 
portfolios and the mode of consultation. ‘All kinds of adminis- 
trative measures', he says, ‘are preceded by deliberation in a 
well-infonned council/ 

The important members of the council were the Prime Minis- 
ter, the High Priest, the Treasurer-General and the Minister of 
War and Peace. The status of the Coinmander-in-Chief appears 
to have created a controversy which, according to Sir Percival 
Griffiths, 'strangely anticipated the dispute between Kitchener 
and Curzon more than two thousand years later*.* Some authori- 
ties consider the Commandcr-ln-Chirf as a minister. But others 
do not think so. Sir Percival says that Kautiiya supports the 
latter view because he deals with the duties of the Commander- 
in-Chief along with those of the superintendents who were the 
official heads of the departments of the State and who 

‘Th« British Impact on India by SuFodval Cnffiths. 

*1 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

conesponded to the permanent under-seaetaries in the British 
Civil Service. 

There were other ministers in charge of various departments 
like agriculture, forests, commerce, customs, police, prisons and 
so on. There were also ministers without portfolios. The number 
of ministers varied from time to time. 

The King might consult the ministers cither individually or 
collectively. Kautilya suggests that the wise course would be to 
consult three or four ministers. ‘Consultation with a single 
minister,’ he says, 'may not lead to any definite conclusion in 
the case of complicated issues. A single minister proceeds wil- 
fully and without restraint. In deliberating with two ministers, 
the king may be overpowered by their combined action or 
imperilled by their mutual dissension- But with three or four 
ministers, he wiU not come to any serious grief but will arrive at 
satisfactory results. Vlth ministers more than four in number, 
he will have to come to a decision after a good deal of trouble. 
In accordance with the requirements of place, time and nature 
of the work in view, he may, as he deems it proper, deliberate 
with one or two ministers or by himself.' 

What were the qualifiations of ministers? Kautilp says that 
they should hail from noble famiUes; they should be endowed 
with intelligence and ima^nation, eloquence and enthusiasm; 
they should be well trained in the arts and possess excellent 
character and free from such qualities as exdte enmity. The 
loyalty of ministers was to be tested under religion, wealth, love 
and fear but 'never shall the king make himseS or his queen an 
object of testing the dtaractet of his councillors'. 

Great importance was attached to cabinet seaecy. The King 
was enjoinri not to enter into ddiherations in the cabinet meet- 
ing without taking effective precautions to ensure secrecy. The 
proceedings were to be so condurted that 'even birds cannot see 
them', for secrecy might be divulged by parrots, minas and other 
creatures. 

As regards the relationship between the King and his Cabinet, 
opinion among scholars appears to be conflicting. Some hold the 
view that although the King might consult his ministers on 
important issues, he was free to acc^t or reject their advice. But 
there is a school of thought tfiat suggests that cabinets took 
*4 



FROM MAURYAS TO MOUNTBATTEN 

decisions by majority vote and that the King had no alternative 
but to bow to them. 

The Arthasastra says; ‘when there is an extraordinary 
matter, the mantriparishad should be called and informed. In 
the meeting whatever the majority dedde to be done, should be 
done by the King.’ According to the Sukranitisara, 

‘without the mantrics (Ministers), matters of State should never 
be considered by the king alone, he be an expert in all sciences 
and versed in policy. A wise king must always follow the opinion 
of the members of the council . . . He must never follow his own 
opinion. When the sovereign becomes independent of his coun- 
cil, he plans for his ruin. In fine, he loses the State and loses the 
subjects.’ 

The Brihaspatisutra says that kings were not free wen to give 
gifts to the Brahmins without ministerial consent. There is also 
the interesting instance of King Rudradaman whose decision to 
repair the Sudarsana lake was opposed by bis ministers. Con- 
sequently, the expenses had to be borne by the King himself 
from his privy purse. 

While generally the kings in their own interest might have 
consulted their ministers on important matters, it seems difficult 
to agree with the view that the former had no freedom at all to 
act in their discretion. Tt is remarkable,' says K. P. Jayaswal, an 
eminent scholar, that ‘the king is not given even the power of 
vetoing.’ This conclusion appears rather far-fetched because, 
after all, the ministers were appointed by the ki^; they were 
responsible to him and to none else, and their office depended 
on his pleasure. 

The Mauryan administration reached a high degree of efli- 
dency dining the time of Asoka (275 B.C. - 232 B.c). He tried 
to establish a welfare State tiiat sought to promote the happiness 
not only of the people but also of animals. His ministers were 
called Mahamatras and the Prime Minister was known as 
Agramatya. 

Asoka introduced important idianges in the administration. 
He set up a new department called the Ministry of Morals. Its 
duty was to work for the moral uplift of the people and to ensure 

»5 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

that justice was administered properly. He made it compulsory 
lot ministers to ■ondeitaVe frequent tours with a view to keeping 
personal contacts with the people. He paid special attention to 
improving the efficiency of the Public Works Department- 
In Asoka’s time, the people seemed to have understood the 
important distinction between obedience to the king and opposi- 
tion to his ministers. This is cleat from what the people of Taxila 
told Asoka's son who had been sent to that dty on a mission of 
conc^ation. ‘We are not hostile to your Highness,* they said, ‘or 
to King Asoka, but to the svicked ministers who insult us.' 

Milkers continued to play an important part in the adminis- 
tration of the Gupta rulers (jio - 550 A.D.). AJthough the Guptas 
emphasised the divine character of kingsWp, they ffid not under- 
mine the importance of ministers. In fact, the latter became more 
influential in this period and some of them made their office 
hereditary. 

With the establishment of the Muslim nJe in 1206 A.D. the 
authority of the Idogs inaeased enormously and that of the min- 
isters denned. The tdngs behaved like despots, relying more on 
the strength of the military than on the popular will. Although 
occasionally a strong Prime Minister might assert himself, gen- 
erally the Idngs had their own way. Evers the Koranic law, which 
sometimes had a restraining influence on royal recklessness, %vas 
defied by powerful rulers like AUauddin. The people had no voice 
in the administration, the only remedies open to them being 
rebellion and assassination. All powers — executive, legislative 
and judicial — were concentrated in the king who was free to act 
as he liked. 

Not all Muslim rulers, however, used their power arbitrarily. 
Akbar (1556- 1605), the greatest of all of them, was an enlight- 
ened despot who strove hard to build up a united India. Although 
illiterate, he displayed administrative abilities of a high order.’ 
His principal ministers were: the Vakil or Prime Minister, the 
Viaer or Finance Minister also called Dewan, the Chief Bakshi 
whose task included recruitment to the army and maintenance of 

‘ AU)ir'f conunmt. quoted by V. A. Smith, on the competence of his 
mmisters. Is of considerable foterM: It w»s the effect of the ence of God 
that I found no capable ntialster: otherwise people would have considered 
that my measures had been devised by him.' 

16 



FROM MAURYAS TO MOUNTBATTEN 


Certain registers, and the Sadr, the highest ecclesiastical officer. 
Apart from his regular ministers, Akhar consulted others like 
Abul Fazal who for many years arted as his most trusted adviser. 

Aurangzeb (1658* 1707), the last of the Great Moguls, was 
an able ruler but he was cruel and tactless and, by undoing the 
good work of Akhar, laid the foundation for the disintegration 
of the Mogul empire. The events that led to its break-up are not 
relevant to our study. What is important to note is that till the 
advent of British rule, the political situation in the country was 
ranfused and was not conducive to the growth of a sound admin- 
istrative system. 


EKTER BRITAIK 

Conditions in India changed radically after the British had estab- 
lished themselves firmly. The maintenance of law and order, the 
spread of education, social reforms, and industrial expansion 
greatly facilitated the political unification of India. For the first 
time, this vast counc^ ame under a single administration 
which, by and large, was effident and enlightened, and helped 
the evolution of the parliamentary system of government. 

The important landmarks in the constitutional development 
of India may now be briefly summarized. In 1773 the British 
Parliament passed the Regulating Act. It made the Governor of 
Bengal the Governor-General of all British possessions in India. 
The Governor-General was to hold office for five years. He was to 
be assisted by a council of four members. He was also given the 
authority to control the administration of Bombay and Madras 
presidendes. 

The Governor-General and his coundllors were to deride all 
questions by a majority vote. TTie Governor-General was given a 
vote as well as a casting vote in case of a tie. But the Act did not 
work well because the councillors opposed Warren Hastings, the 
first Governor-General, on Important matters. Deadlocks were 
frequent and good government became impossible. The Regulat- 
ing Act was therefore amended in 1786. The Governor-General 
was given the power to override his CTuncil and function on his 
own responsibility in certain drcnmstances. 

The Charter Act of 1S53 raised the strength of the Executive 
*7 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

Coundl from ttree to four by the addition of a Law Member. 
But he could attend and vote only when legal questions came up 
for discussion. The Commander-m-Chief was made an extra- 
ordinary member of the Coundl and the Governor-General of 
Bengal was designated Governor-General of India. 

The Charter Act of 185} enhanced the powers of the Law 
Member who could now attend all meetings and vote on all 
questions. 

The mutiny of 1857 brought about the end of the East India 
Company, and the aominisctaUon of India was directly taken 
over by the British Government. A Seoetary of State, assisted by 
a coundl, was appointed to look after the affairs of India. The 
Governor-General of India was also designated as Viceroy but he 
was to work under the direction of the Secretary of State for 
India. The Queen’s proclamation of 1857, regarded for a long 
time as the l^gna Carta of the people of India, helped to pacify 
and unify the country. It made the important announcement 
that public offices in Inffia would be thrown open to all subjects 
without distinction of caste, colour and oeed. Four years later 
was passed the Indian Coundls Act. It raised the strength of the 
Viceroy’s Executive Council from four to five with the addition 
of the Finance Minister. Another important change introduced 
by the Act was the adoption of the portfolio system. Prior to this, 
there was no proper division of work among the councillors. No 
member was given charge of any specific department. But under 
the portfolio system, as Dt A. B. Budra observes, ‘a member now 
ceased to be an adviser leisurely minuting in his own hand on 
papers referred to him and assumed the role of a responsible 
administrator of one of the great departments of the Government 
of India.’ In 1874, a sixth member was added to the Council and 
he was given charge of the Public Works Department. 

The Government of India Act of 1909, framed on the recom- 
mendations of Lord Motley, the Seaetaiy of State of India, and 
Lord Minto, the Viceroy, was the next major landmark in the 
evolution of parliamentary democracy. The Act enlarged the 
membenhip and powers of the Imperial Legislative Council. Its 
members could now discuss the budget, move resolutions and ask 
questions and supplementary questions. But it was not permitted 
to discuss the affairs of the army and the Indian States. The 
18 



FROM MAURrAS TO MOl/NTBATTEN 


legislative councils in the prtAinces were also \videned and given 
more povirers than before. For the first time an Indian member 
’Ws appointed to the Viceroy's Executive Council and he was 
given the portfolio of Law. 

The Act of 1909 did not however satisfy the political aspira- 
tion of the people of India though the moderate section of politi- 
cians welcomed the proposals. From the long-term point of view, 
the most serious feature of the Act was the introduction of 
Separate electorates at the specific demand of certain leaders of the 
Muslim community. The argument of these leaders was that the 
Muslims constituted themselves into a separate community with 
a culture and a way of life different from those of the Hindus 
who Were more numerous, more powerful and more prosperous 
than the other sections of the population. So unless the Muslims 
were given reserved seats and separate electorates, they could 
not be adequately and effectively represented in the legislatures. 
Their demand was readily conceded by the British Govermnenf.* 
The result was chat communalism became an important factor 
in India's policial life. The Muslim League came into existence 
in 1906 and, interestingly enough, the Hindu Mahasabha also 
was born in the same year. The Indian National Congress had 
been established in 1885 and itsmain objective in its earlier years 
was to achieve good administration and, in due course, self- 
government witMn the Commonwealth. From the very begin- 
ning, it had been a staundi champion of Indian unity but the 
introduction of separate electorates made the achievement of this 
goal diihculc and ultimately led Co the partition of India. 

The Government of India Act of 1919 was in many respects a 
distinct improvement over the Act of 1909. Its main features 
were the following; The powers of the central and provincial 
Governments were dearly demarcated. The Central Government 
broadly confined itself to all'lndia affairs like defence, finance 
and communications. Subjects that were more or less of regional 
importance were given to provincial Governments. Biameralism 

*TTie Caymaent cl India, la recomm^tdiBg teparate electorates, said in 
Aeit communication to the Secretary of State for India m October 1908 : The 
Indian Muhammadans are tnucli nm Uian a religious body. They form in 
fact an absolutely separate community, dattinct by marriage, food and cusiNss, 
and claiming in many cases to bdmg to a different race from the Hindus.’ 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


was introduced into the central legislature. There were two 
houses — the Legislative Assembly and the Council of the State. 
The Assembly had a strength of 145 members of whom 105 were 
elected and forty nominated. The Council of State, mainly a 
revising body, consisted of sixty members — thirty-four elected 
and twenty-six nominated. The two chambers enjoyed co-equal 
powers in the matter of legislation. No major change was effected 
in the structure of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. It continued 
to remain, as before, subordinate to the Secretary of State for 
India. But the fact that the Indian Legislative Assembly now con- 
sisted of a large number of elected and respected leaders from 
different parts of the country did have a beneficial effect on the 
central administration. 

In the provincial sphere however the Act of 1919 made some 
far-reaching changes. It introduced what was known as dyarchy 
in the provinces. The provincial subjects were divided into two 
categories — reserved and transferred. The reserved category con- 
sisted of such vital subjects as finance, land revenue ana law and 
order. These were in the hands of the British members of the 
^vernot’s Executive Council while the Indian members were 
pven the charge of transferred subjects such as education, public 
health and agriculture. The^vincial legislatures were further 
enlatgw and the principle of direct election was introduce^ the 
franchise being based mainly on property and residence in the 
constituency. 

But the reforms of 1919 also failed to create any enthusiasm in 
the country. The substance of power was stiff in British hands. In 
‘he authws of the reforms of 1919 themselves openly 
acknowledge their demerits when they remarks that ‘hybrid 
exerativo. IimiteJ respoiBibility, assmblies paitly elected and 
partly nominated, (bvirions o( funaiona, leseivaHona general or 
par icu ar, are devices that can have no permanent abiding 
^ •^y^rchy m the provinces led to frequent deadlocks.* The 


ao 



FROM MAURYAS TO MOUNTBATTEN 


Indian ministers felt that they were unable to function effec- 
tively because the real power was not in their hands. It was only 
after the introduction of provincial autonomy under the Gov- 
ernment of India Act of 1955 that the provincial governments 
came to have some substantial power. But this experiment did 
not last long because in 19J9, on the outbreak of the second 
world war, the Congress ministries in the provinces resigned as a 
protest against India being dragged into the war without her 
consent. The Act had also envisaged the aeation of a Federation 
at the Centre, consisting of the representatives of both British 
India and the Indian States. But this scheme did not materialize 
because of the opposition of certain influential Indian States. 
Moreover, the Act did not envisage the transfer of zeal power 
into Indian hands. 

The detailed provisions of the Act of 1955 are not relevant to 
our study. What is Importani to note is that until August 15, 
1947 the Executive Council of the Viceroy did not have the 
characteristics of a Cabinet. It was not responsible to the Indian 
legislature. Its members had no independence and could not take 
the initiative on important questions. Their loyalty was to the 
British Cabinet whose mandate it was bound to carry out im- 
plicitly. As Sir Henry Fowler. Seoetary of State for India, 
explained, 

‘so long as any matter of administration or policy is undecided, 
every member of the Government of India is at liberty to express 
his opinion, but when a certain line of policy has been adopted 
under the direction of the (British) Cabinet, it is the clear duty of 
every member of the Government of India to consider not what 
that policy ought to be but how effect may best be given to the 
policy that has been decided upon, and if any member of that 
Government is unable to do tiris. there is only one alternative 
open to him and that is rerignation.' 

The Council also lacked homogeneity. Some of its members 
were officials, others were non-offictals but without representa- 
tive capacity. It was not surprising therefore that powerful 
Viceroys like Lord Wellesley, lord Minto and Lord Hardinge 
practically ignored the Coun^ Indeed, Lord Ripon wrote to the 
21 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

Seaetary of State for India that the members of the Council 
were ‘too amenable to the uill of the Viceroy*. That ^vas the true 
situation until India attained her freedom in August, 1947. 

The Viceroy of India was not like the Governoi-Genertl of the 
Dominions. The Viceroy s\*as endowed with vast and extra- 
ordinary powers. The Governor-General of the Dominions was a 
constitutional head like the British Monarch. But the Viceroy 
directly and actively participated in the Government of India. 
The Viceroy appointed coundUois. distributed portfolios and he 
could override the dedsion of his council if necessary. He sum- 
moned. prorogued and dissoU-ed the Central legislature. He 
could extend its term heyond the prescribed period. He could 
prohibit the introduction in the lepslature of any bill and also 
withhold his assent from any measure which, in his opinion, 
would be against British interests. If the legislature failed to pass 
a bill in the form recommended by him, be could enact it into 
law by virtue of his power of certincation. Alxrve all, he had the 
authority to issue ordnances without reference to the legislature. 

In financial matters also the Viceroy had extensive powers. It 
was be who dedded what items were to be dassified as votable 
and non-votable. He could restore grants refused by the Assembly 
and authorise such expenditure as he thought necessary for the 
safety and tranquility of the British rule. 

It must be emphasised however that even though the Vice- 
roy's Executive Council never functioned as a Cabinet* and the 
Central Lepslature enjoyed only limited powers, partidpitioa in 
these bodies gave Inmans valuable experience that has stood 
them in good stead in free India. British rule in this country, 
despite its oppressive polides at times, was on the whole a liberal 
and progressive one. If today India, unlike many Asian nations, 
enjoys a stable democratic government, the credit must go 
largdy to the Britbh rulers who introduced their political institu- 
tions and conventions and built up an eSdent administrative 
machinery. 

Indians took to the parliamentary form of government with 
great gusto. The central le^^atuie attracted some of the best 
brains of the country, and among Its members there were many 


’ Lord WaveH in 1946 to ranot die EveeuSve Coundl into a Cabinet 
But the attempt fiJed at «e thaH tee m the next rfiipter. 


31 



FROM MAURYAS TO MOUNTBATTEN 

leaders unrivalled for their deep learning and debating sKll. In 
the early years of this century, for Instance, the central legisla- 
ture contained great statesmen Uke Gopal Krishna Gokhale, 
Surendranath Bancrjee and V. S. Srinivasa Sastri. Undcf the 
Montford reforms, it included leaders of the eminence of yj^hal- 
bhai Patel, Motilal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malaviya, M. A. 
Jinnah and S. Srinivasa Iyengar. At a later stage, came veterans 
Uke Bhulabhai Desai and S. Satyamurthi. The last was one of the 
most brilliant parliamentarians of India, of whom Sir Percival 
Griffiths writes: ‘Satiramurthi was perhaps the most practiwl 
and certainly the most industrious of all the Congres leaders m 
the Central Assembly. He read every white paper and blue book 
that appeared ... * 

The excellent training Indians received in parliamenta^ 
democracy helped to facilitate the transfer of power in 1947* By 
that time, British constitutional practices had takw root in India 
and when the time came to frame our Constitution, it was 
mainly to Britain that we looked for inspiration and guidance. 
Statesmen like B. R. Ambedfcar, N. Copalaswami Iyengar, Sardar 
Patel and K, M. Munshi, who dominated the Constituent 
Assembly, were admirers of the British Constitution and it was 
not surprising therefore that most provisions of the Goveri^ent 
of India of xpjj, framed by the British Parliament, were incor- 
porated in the Indian Constitution. 

So far as the Viceroy was concerned, it was only after the 
complete transfer of power in 1947 that he became the constitu- 
tional head of the Government of India. ‘From today,’ said Lord 
Mountbatten, in his historic broadcast to the nation on August 
15th, T am your constitutional Governor-General and I would 
ask you to regard me as one of yourselves devoted wholly to the 
furtherance of India’s interests.’ 



CHAPTER 11 


FIGHT FOR PORTFOLIOS 


Before we ^oceed to study the working of the Cabinet in free 
Indja. It wU be mefui to analj-se how the ‘interim government’, 
V transfer of power, actually functioned. 

Although this Government lasted for hardly a year, the way in 
wWch it arried on the administration is of considerable political 
and conrtitutional interest. For the first time in the history of 
India, the representatives of the two most powerful polJtial 
organisations accepted office at the centre and an attempt was 
made to ronvert the Executive Council into a real Cabinet. But 
the expenment failed Irause of the acute jealousies, suspicions 
an^ntngura between the Congress and the Muslim League. 

fomti on September a. 1946. 
ISh JLV” ^ » Ro^’^nwent consisting of popular represen* 
“oWiie effectively the country’s 
' 5^ j P'i' of post.™ Konomic 

“ ’"P morntnlous «rp forwa.J' on 

mumS™Tn'>hi d,y.!iL"”"mtaS™?oS! "" 

pSlitTt ci'.' 'i*'"’ Voll^bh,! P,icl, R,)cnJn 

bStol ^ . | 2 , p" f- ■^I'Sopol'oboH, Anf All, folm 
C I Ahmrd Klan, Mdev Singh. 

A i™" S’*??- ?' ■“>'= °-o to InciSjo 

th. hw™™. .toiS'.tofc?'*’";'" ‘’"'r-. 

SS^p' '0' M'*’* foMc 'imlllu- 



FIGHT FOR PORTFOLIOS 

members of the Executive Council as they had been designated 
before. It was believed that if they acted jointly, the Viceroy 
would find it difficult to interfere with their work. Interference 
with one would be tantamount to interference with all, and the 
entire Cabinet had decided to stand or fall together. Every 
ing the ministers used to meet informally under the leadership 
of Nehru to discuss important problems and arrive at tentative 
decisions. But when the League joined the Government on 
October 15, 1946, all hopes of converting the Executive Council 
into a Cabinet vanished. , 

The League sent five representatives to the Executive Coun^, 
namely Liaquat Ali Khan, Ghaznafar Ali Khan, Sardar Abdur 
Rab Nishtar, 1 . 1 . Chundrigat and jogendra Nath Mondal, the 
last member representing the scheduled castes of East Bengal. 
Maulana Azad recalls in his autobiography how in selecting his 
nominees, Jitmah was careful to choose only those who would 
act as his yes*men. Thus Nazimuddin and Nawab Ismail ^an, 
who had been considered as certainties, were not included. In- 
stead, Nishtar and Ghaznafar Ali Khan who. in the words of 
Maulana Azad, were 'dark horses about whom even members of 
the League had little information’ were chosen. On the entry of 
the League, three representatives of the Congress, namely, Sarat 
Bose, Shafat Ahmed Khan and Ali Zaheer were dropped and the 
Council consisted of fourteen members. 

Jinnah insisted that the most important portfolios should be 
equally distributed between the Congress and the Muslim 
League. Lord Wavell observed that in the existing conditions, all 
portfolios were of great importance and it was a matter of 
opinion which of them were the more important ones. Neverthe- 
less, it is surprising to see how even experienced Congress 
leaders were outwitted by the league in the allocation of port- 
folios. The fight between the Congress and the League centred 
mainly around Finance and Home portfolios. 

C. Rajagopalachazi has interestingly described the situation 
thus: '\^en the provisional Government was formed, we had a 
discussion among ourselves as to how the different ministries 
should be divided between the Muriim League and the Congress. 
Gandhiji was there. He did not know much about administration 
but he knew what was important. Jawaharlal was in a hurry 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

to get things settled and he did not mind how. liaquat Ali 
Khan wanted the Ministry of Bnance and Vallabhai Patel 
wanted the Home Ministry. I was the only one with any real 
experience o{ admlnistrarion. 1 said that the Ministry of Finance 
was not very important from a policy point of view because there 
were all sorts of necessary limitations on what could be done. But 
it had a lot of prestige attached to it and, therefore, it was good 
to make the concession to (he Muslims. The Home Ministry 
also was not very important at that time because the real power 
was in the States. But I agreed that it was important from the 
point of 'lew of prestige; and since Patel wanted it very badly, it 
was agreed by all of us that he should have it.” 

But subsequent events showed that the Congress, including 
Rajagopalachari, made a great mistake in agreeing to hand over 
Finance to the Muslim League, This gave opportunity to the 
League to interfere in e\xry branch of the administration and 
obstruct the policies of the Congress. 'Whatever proposal was 
made by Sardar Patel.' writes Maulana Arad, ‘was rejected ot 
modified bej-ond recognition by liaquat Ali Khan. His persistent 
Interference made it difficult lor any Congress member to func* 
tion eCeetivcly.' liaquat AH Khan in his budget of February. 
1946 imposed drastic and unprecedented measures of taxation 
with a slew to crushing the power and influence of the Hindu 
c»>ta1>sts, and the country took a long time to recover from the 
effect of these proposals. 

The Interim government never functioned satisfactorily. In 
fact. In the draimstances it was set up, it could hardly be 
expected to do so. TTie efficiency- and prestige of the interim 
Cos-ernment.* said Lord Wavell. Vill depend on eimiring that 
differeners arc resolved in advance of Cabinet meetings by 
friendly discussions. A coalition Gos-emment either worts by a 
process of mutual adjuitrocnt or dors not at all.' But from the 
very beginning Hiquat Ali Khan challenged Nehru's right to 
hold Informal meetings and the league's representatives refused 
to attend them. Congress and league members met together only 
when the Viceroy called a meeting of the Cabinet. The League 
had already committed Uwlf finnlv to the demand for the division 


M Mm Vr Mwka r^hai. 



FIGHT FOR PORTFOLIOS 

of India while the Congress was trying to avoid partition as fa: 
as practiable. 

With such fundamental differences, it was not surprising tba 
the interim government 0)uld not function as a cabinet. Liaquai 
All Khan frankly admitted that the government consisted of : 
Congress bloc and a Muslim bloc, each functioning under a sep- 
arate leadership. Nehru said that the League had been attempting 
to establish itself as the king’s party in the government; ano 
linnah declared that the interim government was no more than 
the Viceroy’s Executive Council under the Act of 1919. and 
that to call it a cabinet was a complete misconception. ‘You can- 
not,* he said, 'turn a dooley into an elephant b)’ calling it an 
elephant.’ Indeed, the differences inside the Cabinet became so 
acute that the Congress members acia2yiy demanded the resigna- 
tion of the League. But In the meantime, the British Govern- 
ment had announced their Intention to diride and quit India by 
August 15, 1947. therefore decided to reallocate the port- 
folios in such a way that the ingress would be in charge of 
affairs reUting to the Dominion of India and the League would 
take over the portfolios relarino to Pakistan, while problems of 
common concern were to be dealt with jointly by both the wings 
under the chairmanship of the Governor-Ceneral. 


27 


CHAPTER 111 


QUINTESSENCE OF THE 
CONSTITUTION 


Before we study the working of the Cabinet, it will be worth- 
while to analyse briefly the nature of the Indian Constitution 
and its main provisions. We have seen in the first chapter how 
parliamentary institutions came to be established in India after 
the advent of the British rule, and how Indian leaders cnthus- 
iastic^y adapted themselves to the new type of Government. It 
was therefore a relatively easy task for them to prepare a Con- 
stitution for their own country. The Constituent Assembly com- 
pleted this task in about three years and the Constitution came 
into force on January i6, 1950.* Some idea of the enormous 
Ubour that went into its making wiU be clear from the fact that 
p V j i ^5 \ pages, 395 Arflcles, twenty-two Chapters and 
eight Schedules. It is a cosmopolitan Constitution in the sense 
that it incorporates certain aspects from the Constitutions of 
almost aU the im^rtant countries of the world particularly from 
ritaln, the USA, ^e and the Dominions. Above all, it has drawn 
hewly from the Government of India Act, 1935. 

The Preamble to the Constitution proclaims India to be a 
Sovereign Democratic Republic. It makes it dear that the power 
of the Government is dmved solely from tbe people of India and 
k' 1 ° «onomic and political 

thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; 

Sn ‘ “'1 tha unity of the 

iS ‘h! Fundamental 

re the 
, race. 


Riahts of >■ has cnuinciatcd in detail the Fundamen 

brnrlihHin?o 7 !i*' before t 

law prohibition of disaimmation on grounds of religion, ra 


z8 



QUINTESSENCE OF THE CONSTITUTION 

caste, sex or place of birth; equality of opportumty in pubUc 
employment; abolition of untoucbability; protection of certain 
rights regaring freedom of speech as well as of life and person^ 
liberty; prohibition of traffic in human beings, forced labour and 
employment of children in factories: right to freedom of religion; 
cultural and educational rights; right to property; and right to 
constitutional remedies. The Fundamental Rights have been in- 
cluded in the Constitution to protect the citizen against arbiriary 
action and discriminatory treatment by Government. The rights 
ate enforceable in the courts; and the law-making authorities at 
the Centre and in the States are forbidden to enact measures in 
violation of these rights. But during rimes of national emergency, 
the rights may be suspended under the Constitution. 

'Directive Prindples of State Policy* are a unique feature of 
the Indian Constitution. These arc not enforceable by any court. 
Nevertheless, they are, in tbe words of the Constitution, funda- 
mental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty 
of the State to apply these principles in making laws’. 

The Directive Prindples enjoin the State to promote the 
people's welfare by securing for them adequate means of liveli- 
hood, by equitable distribution of the ownership and control of 
the material resources, by preventing concentration of wealth 
and means of production to the common detriment, and by en- 
suring equal pay for equal work for women and men. Spedal 
care is to be taken to protect the interests of the weaker sections 
of the population particularly those of the Scheduled castes and 
Scheduled tribes. Further, the State shall endeavour to raise the 
level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people, and to 
bring about prohibition of the consumption, except for medidnri 
purposes, of intoxicating drinks and of drugs injurious to health. 
Finally, the State is called upon to promote international peace 
and security, maintain just and honourable relations betw«n 
nations, foster respect for international law and treaty organic- 
tions, and encourage settlement of international dis^tes by 
arbitration. The incorporation of these Directive Prindples has 
been critidzed as being superfluous. InefTecrive and theoretical 
because nobody can compel the Government to observe them. 
Although this criticism may seem valid to some extent, it must 
be admitted that these prindples do serve a useful purpose by 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


setting forth laudable ideals to which no responsible Government 
can afford to remain indifferent. 

The Government of India is a federation although this term is 
not used in the Constitution. The Constituent Assembly pre- 
fened the name 'the Indian Union' so as to emphasize the funda- 
mental unity of the country. The powers have been distributed 
in such a way as to provide for a strong Centre. The subjects 
assigned to the Centre arc indicated in the Union list consisting 
of rt<ifenty-sevcn items, the more important of them being 
defence, foreign affairs, currency and coinage, foreign trade, rail- 
ways, posts and telegraphs, ports and airways, industries the 
control of which by the Union is declared by Parliament to be 
expedient in public interest, regulation of oil fields and mineral 
resources, organization of the Supreme Court and the High 
Courts and inter-State migration. The State List contains sixty- 
six items including public order, poticx, administration of justice, 
prisons, constitution and powers of municipal corporations, 
public health and sanltaHon, education, agriculture, land 
revenue, forests, fisheries and industries not controlled by the 
Centre. The concurrent list consists of forty-seven subjects in- 
cluding criminal law, preventive detention, marriage and divorce, 
dvil procedure, economic and sodal planning, trade unions, 
sodal security, price control, factories, electridty, newspapers, 
books and printing presses. The Constitution abo provides that, 
in the national interest, a subject in the State Lbt can be trans- 
ferred to the Union List for a period not exceeding one year pro- 
vided the Rajya Sabha by a two-thirds majority approves of the 
proposal. A subject can abo be shifted to the Concurrent List by 
a spedal procedure requiring the consent of legblatures of half 
the number of States. On subjects in the Concurrent List, both 
the Centre and States can legate but the Central law can 
override that of the State in case of inconsbtency. It will be thus 
seen that the Constitution has vested vast powers in the Centre, 
and the exigencies of planning in the last fifteen years have 
enormously strengthened it further. 

The Indian Constitution b a flexible one. But being a written 
Constitution, it is not as flndble as that of Britain. Nor has it the 
rigiity of the j^mcan Constitution. The flexibility of the 
Indian Constitution b seen in the fact that till now it has been 
30 



QUINTESSENCE OF THE CONSTITUTION 


amended neatly twenty times.’ The procedure for amendment is 
rather simple. An amendment can be initiated by introducing a 
bill for the purpose in tither House of Parliament, and the 
amendment becomes law if passed in each House by a majority of 
the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less 
than two-thirds of that House present and voting; and it becomes 
valid after receiving the President’s assent. But the amendment 
requires ratification by the leg^slatu^cs of States in certain cases 
as, for instance, when changes are contemplated in the procedure 
for the election of the President or representation of States in 
Parliament. The Constitution is also flexible in another sense, 
namely, that in an emergency it can be converted almost into a 
unitary State with the President assuming extraordinary powers 
under Article 35z. 


THE UNION EXECUTIVE 

The executive power of the Indian Union is vested in the Presi- 
dent and is exercised by him through the Council of Ministers. 
The procedure for electing the President, his powers and func- 
tions and his relationship with the Council of Ministers are des- 
cribed in detail in chapter VU. Here it suffices to note that the 
Constitution provides for the parliamentary type of government 
chiefly on the model of Britain. The Council of Ministers con- 
sists of Ministers who ate members of the Cabinet, Ministers of 
State who are not members of the Cabinet but hold Cabinet 
rank, and Deputy Ministers. The Council as such rarely meets. It 
is the Cabinet that meets frequently to decide policy matters. 

The principal departments of the Government of India at 
present’ are Bxtemal Affairs. Home Affairs, Finance, Railways, 
Defence, Food and Agriculture, Steel and Mines, Education, 
Labour and Employment, Rehabilitation, Information and Broad- 
casting, Law, Petroleum and Chemicals, and Parliamentary 
Affairs and Communications. Each of these departments is under 
‘ llie Statcjrruin of Calcutta, in an editoHal is January 196;, observed : 'Hie 
ConstiCution has been amended on an average more than once a year; hardly 
an impressive record, especially when ao many of the amendments have tended 
to deprive the ordinary dtiren of nisUag ri^ts and siieguards rather than, 
as in the American Constitution, to confer new tights.’ 

' This was the position under Shasttft premiership. For the distribution of 
portfolios under Mrs Gandhi see appoidix. 

3« 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


a Cabinet Minister assisted, in some cases, by a Minister of State 
and a Deputy Minister. Some subjects like Commerce, Industry 
and Heavy En^neering, Health, and Irrigation and Power are in 
independent charge of Ministers of State. As regards Deputy 
Ministers, their main function is to assist the Ministers con- 
cerned both in Parliament and outside.’ The Secretary is the 
administrative head of the Ministry. He is the chief adviser to 
the Minister. A Ministry has several divisions, branches and 
sections in charge of Deputy Secretaries, Under Secretaries and 
Secdon Officers respectively. To ensure the smooth functioning 
of the administration, the Constitution empowers the President, 
on the advice of the Prime Minister, to make rules and to allocate 
the subjects among ministers. 


PARLIAMENT 

The Indian Parliament is bicameral, consisdng of the Lok Sabba 
M the Lower House, and the Rajya Sabha or the Upper House. 
The Lok Sabha represents the people and the Rajya Sabha the 
States. In ordinary law-making, the two Houses enjoy coequal 
^fYiT V disagreement between them, the President 

of the Repubhe IS empowered to caU a joint meedng. The ques- 
don on which there is disagreement iviU be dedded by a majoriw 
ot members present and voting. 

The Lok Sabha is more important, more powerful and more 
popular than the Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha consists of not 
more than 500 members elected directly by adult suffrage, aU 
Qtizens of twenty-one years and above being endtied to vote, 
prodded they are not otherwise disqualified. Provision is made 
^ Scheduled castes and Sched- ' 

the nonunadon of two representatives of the 
^^Mndian community. A member of the Lok Sabha must be 
an Indian a^en and not below twenty-five years of age The 
dimnon of the Lok Sabha is five years, i hask right I0 el^ 

Mmiiters make 

other* do not. aUwno the Deo^ most of the functions to them: 

mentary work Sm ““O'- 

seems approp^w “nd a “f these arrangements 

Deputy Ministers o«essa^r^peri^'t&? t''S **’* 

or imuting the permanent retarding government business 



QUINTESSENCE OF THE CONSTITUTION 


its chairman, called the Speaker, whose status and powers are 
more or less similar to those of the Speaker of the House of 
Commons. 

The Lok Sabha is empowered to legislate on all subjects in the 
Union List as well as on those in the Concurrent List. It controls 
the executive by putting interpellations, by adjournment 
motions, by resolutions of no-confidence and, above all, by its 
power over the purse. All money bills originate only in the 
Lower House, a money bill being defined as one dealing with the 
imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any 
tax; the regulation of the borrowing of money; the custody of the 
consolidated fund or the contingency fund and the appropriation 
of moneys out of such fund. And in case of a dispute as to 
whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the Speaker 
is final. After a money bill is passed by the Lok Sabha, it shall be 
transmitted to the Rajya Sabha. The latter shall return it with its 
recommendations within a fortnight, and the Lok Sabha may or 
niay not accept them. The bill is then presented to the President 
for his assent. 

The Lok Sabha has a number of committees to facilitate its 
work such as the Public Accounts Committee, Estimates Com* 
mittee, Select Committees, Committee on Privileges, Rules 
Committee and Committee on Government Assurances. The 
Public Accounts Committee scrutinizes the expenditure of the 
different departments of the Government and reports to the 
House how far the public funds are utilized in accordance with 
the budgetary provisions. The Estimates Committee examines 
the working of the various ministries and suggests measures to 
ensure economy and improve efficiency. Select Committees are 
set up whenever the House feels that certain legislative measures 
need detailed study. The Committee on Privileges deals with 
cases referred to it relating to breach of privilege. The Rules 
Committee ensures that the rules for the conduct of the business 
of the House work smoothly and suggests amendments to them 
if necessary, while the Committee on Assurances takes steps to 
see that the promises made by ministers are carried out in a 
reasonable time. 

The Rajya Sabha is the Upper House. It consists of not more 
than 250 members. Of these, twelveare nominated by the President 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


from among those with special knowledge or of practical 
experience in literature, science, art and social service. The rest 
arc chosen by the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies 
of States in accordance with the system of proportional represen- 
tation by means of the single transferable vote. The Vice-Presi- 
dent of the Indian Republic who is the ex-offido Chairman of 
the Rajya Sabha, presides over its meetings and in his absence, 
the Deputy Chairman, elected by the members from among 
themselves, takes the Chair. 

The Rajya Sabha is never dissolved but one-third of its mem- 
bers retire every two years. A candidate for membership should 
be a dtizen of India above thirty-five years of age. The Rajya 
Sabha can also control the Cabinet by means of questions, 
adjournment motions, and critical speeches, but it cannot remove 
the m i nis ters by a vote of censure. It can initiate any bill except 
a money bill, and its consent is essential for other bills to become 
law. 


However, if the Rajya Sabha dedines within six months to 
pass a bill sent up by the Lok Sabha, it will bmme law as passed 
by the lower House. The Rajya Sabha can also amend a money 
blU wirit the concunence of the Lok Sabha. But if the Rajya 
Sabha does not give its assent to a money bill passed by the Lok 
Sabha within fourteen days of its reference to the Rajya Sabha, 
it will be deemed to have been passed in the form in which it was 
adopted by the Lower House. 

HMUy, we should refer to another important power vested in 
the Indian Parliament. Unlike many other federations, Parlia- 
ment m India is empowered, under Artide j of the Constitution, 
to lorm a new State by separation of territory from any State or 
umtog two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any 
temtory to a part of any State; increase or decrease the area of 
any Sute; alter the boundaries of any State; and alter the name 
ot any State. In bringing about these changes, the legislatures 
concerned have the nght only to an expression of view on the 


STATE GOVERNMENTS 

States are concer^. there are at present ^en of 
them, namely. Andhra Pradesh. Assam, Bihar, Gujara't, Jammu 

34 



QUINTESSENCE OF THE CONSTITUTION 

and Ka.thmlr, Kerala, Madhya Tradesh. Madras. Maharashtri 
M)‘sorc, Napaland. Orissa, Tunjab, Rajasthan, Ultar Pradesh 
and West Bengal.* If Is Importanf to note that many States arc 
far bigger In area and poiniUtlon than some independent coun- 
tries of Europe. For example, the Uttar Pradesh has an area of 
1.13,654 square miles and a population of fifty-four million. 
Madhp Pradesh has 1,71,117 square miles and a population of 
thirt)'*lwo million and Andhra Pradesh has 1.06, 1S6 square 
miles and a population of thirty-six million. The States enjoy a 
good deal of autonomy in the spheres allotted to them by the 
Constitution but, as pointed out earlier, in practice their powers 
have been to some extent whittled down on account of the 
exigencies of defence and development. 

The executive power In the State is vested in the Governor. 
Unlike the USA where the State Governor is elected by the people, 
in India he is appointed by the President on the advice of the 
Union Oblnet. The Governor shall be a dtiaen of India, above 
thirty-five years and he shall not be a member of either House of 
Parliament or the State Legislature: nor shall he hold any other 
office of profit. He remains fn office during the pleasure of the 
President and normally his tenure Is five years. 

The Governor Is the Constitutional Head of the State. He is 
provided with a Council of Ministers, with the Chief Member at 
the head, to advise him in the exercise of his functions except 
where he Is required by the Comlitution to act in his discretion.’ 
The leader of the majority party in the Lower House of the State 
Legislature is appointed as Chief Minister by the Governor, and 
the other ministers arc appointed on the advice of the Chief 
Minister. The Chief Minister is enjoined to communicate to the 
Governor all dedsjons of the Coundi of Ministers relating to the 
administration of the affairs of the State and proposal of legisla- 
tion; and to furnish such other information as the Governor may 
call for. The Governor may also submit for the consideration of 

' In addition there are nine Umon Territories, namely. Andaoian and 
Nicobar Islands, Delhi. Himachal pradedu Laccadire Minicoy and Amindivi 
Islands. Manipur, Tripura. Dadra and Nasar Haveli. Coa. Daman and Dm 
and Pondicherry. 

‘ But only in Assam the Covemot is etapoweie J to act in hU discretion In 
regard to the administration of ftonUcr areas. In other States, the Covemon 
do not have to act In their discretion. 


CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


the Cabinet any matter on whidi a decision has been taken by a 
Minister but which has not yet been considered by the Cabinet. 

The Governor has certain legislative powers also. Laws passed 
by the Legislative become valid only after his assent. He is em- 
powered to withhold his assent to a bill, to reserve it for the 
President’s consideration or return the bill to the Legislature for 
reconsideration. The Governor also can issue Ordinances when 
the Legislature is not in session and immediate action is called 
for. He may address the Legislature either separately or jointly. 
He may send messages to the Legislature whether in respect of a 
hill pending before it or othervrise. 

As regards financial powers, the Constitution provides that 
the Governor shall in respect of every financial year cause to be 
laid before the Legislature a statement of the estimated receipts 
and expenditure of the State for that year. No demand for a 
gr^ shall be made except on his recommendation. 

The judicial powers of the Governor consist of the right to 
grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment to 
any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to 
a matter under the jurisdlcHon of the State Government. 

every State is provided with a Legislative Assembly. Some 
States have two Houses— the Legislative Assembly and Legisla- 

ve Counc£. The Assembly is more popular and powerful. 
Members of the y^sembly are chosen by direct election on the 
basis of addt suffrage, but a certain number of seats is reserved 
for Scheduled c«tcs and Scheduled tribes as weU as for Anglo- 
Indians. Nomally the durarion of the Assembly is five years. 
The Assembly elects its own Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The 
Assembly shaU not be more than 500 and not 

“ * permanent body not subject to 
r memben retire every two years. The 

institution provides that the Council’s strength shall not 
members of the Legis- 
£ Of ^ it be iess than 

forty. Of the total number of members of the Coundl, (a) as 

PunUb, Uttar ^desh”w^ ^ Madras 

Pradesh, and lammu and Andhra Pradesh. Mysore. Madhya 



QUINTESSENCE OF THE CONSTITUTION 

nearly as one-third is elected by munidpalltics, district boards 
and such other local bodies; (b) onc-twclfth is to be elected by 
those who have been for at least three years graduates of an 
Indian university or its equivalent; (c) onc•t^velfth by persons 
who have been at least for three years engaged in teaching in 
schools not below the secondary standard; (d) one-third to be 
elected by the Assembly from among persons who are not mem- 
bers of the Assembly: and (e) the test will be nominated by the 
Governor from among penons with special knowledge or prac- 
tical experience in literature, science, art, the co^)perative move- 
ment, and social service. Members are elected in accordance with 
the system of proportional representation with the single trans- 
ferable vote. 

The State Cabinets are collectively responsible to the Lower 
House of the legislature. They remain in office so long as they 
enjoy its confidence. The Ministers are in charge of one or more 
departments and jointly they formulate the policy of the State 
Government. The Cabinet procedure In the States is more or less 
the same as at the Centre.' But the strength of the Cabinet varies 
from State to State.' In some States, in addition to Cabinet 
Ministers, there are Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers. 


ZONAL COUNCILS 

A number of States has been grouped together into zones under 
the States Reorganization Act of 1956. There are at present five 
zones — the Northern Zone with the Punjab, Rajasthan, Jammu 
and Kashmir, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh; the Central Zone 
with Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh; the Eastern Zone with 
Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam, Manipur and Tripura; the 
Western Zone with Gujarat, Maharashtra and Mysore, and the 
Southern Zone with Andhra Pradesh, Madras and Kerala. 

The zonal council consists of a Minister of the Government of 
India nominated by the President, the Chief Minister of the State 
concerned and two ministers nominated by the State Governors. 
The Minister nominated by the President is the Chairman of the 
zonal council. 

'This aspect has been dealt wifli in diapter IV. 

’ This has been discussed in detail tn diairter IX. 

37 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

the Cabinet any matter on which a drcirfon has been taken by a 
Minister but which has not yet been considered by the Cabinet. 

The Governor has certain legislative powers also. Laws passed 
by the Legislative become valid only after his assent. He is em- 
powered to withhold his assent to a bill, to reserve it for the 
President’s consideration or return the bill to the Legislature for 
reconsideration. The Governor also can issue Ordinances when 
the Legislature is not in session and immediate action is called 
for. He may address the Legislature either separately or jointly. 
He may send messages to the Legislature whether in respect of a 
bill pending before it or otherwise. 

As regards financial powers, the Constitution provides that 
the Governor shall in respect of every financial year cause to be 
laid before the Legislature a statement of the estimated receipts 
and c.vpendituTe of the State for that year. No demand for a 
grant shall he made except on his recommendation. 

The judicial powers of the Governor consist of the right to 
grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment to 
any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to 
a matter under the jurisdiction of the State Government. 

Every State is provided with a legislative Assembly. Some 
States have two Houses— the Le^slaiive Assembly and legisla- 
tive Council.* The Assembly Is more popular and powerful. 
Members of the Assembly are chosen by direct election on the 
basis of adult suffrage, but a certain number of seats is reserved 
for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes as well as for Anglo- 
Indians. Normally the duration of the Assembly is five years. 
The Assembly elects its own Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The 
strength of the Assembly shaU not be more than 500 and not 
Jess than sixty. 

The Legislative Council is a permanent body not subject to 
tlissolutton. One-third of its memben retire every tsvo years. The 
Constitution provides that the Council’s strength shall not 
exceed one-fourth of the total number of members of the Legis- 
lative Assembly of the State, but In no case it shall be less than 
forty. Of the total number of members of the Council, (a) as 

‘The Sutes with bicameral legidanie are Bihar. Maharashtra Mailras 
Punjab. Uttir Pradesb, West Baagal. Andhra Pradesh, Mysore, Madhya 
Pradesh, and fammu aud Kashsoii. 



QUINTESSENCE OF THE CONSTITUTION 

nearly as one-fhird is elected by munidpalities, district boards 
and such other local bodies; (b) one-twelfth is to be elected by 
those who have been for at least three years graduates of an 
Indian university or its equivalent; (c) one-twelfth by persons 
who have been at least for three years engaged in teaching in 
schools not below the secondary standard; (d) one-third to be 
elected by the Assembly from among persons who are not mem- 
bers of the Assembly; and (e) the test will be nominated by the 
Governor from among persons with speria! lujowledge or prac- 
tical experience in literature, science, art, the co-operative move- 
ment, and social service. Members are elected in accordance with 
the system of proportional representation with the single trans- 
ferable vote. 

The State Cabinets are collectively responsible to the Lower 
House of the legislature. They remain in office so long as they 
enjoy its confidence. The Ministers are in charge of one or more 
departments and jointly they formulate the policy of the State 
Government. The Cabinet procedure in the States is more or less 
the same as at the Centre.' But the strength of the Cabinet varies 
from State to State.' fn some States, in addition to Cabinet 
Ministers, there arc Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers. 

ZONAL COUNCILS 

A number of States has been grouped together into zones under 
the States Reorganization Act of 1956. There are at present five 
zones — the Northern Zone with the Punjab, Rajasthan, Jammu 
and Kashnur, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh; the Central Zone 
with Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh; the Eastern Zone with 
Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam, Manipur and Tripura; the 
Western Zone with Gujarat, Maharashtra and Mysore, and the 
Southern Zone with Andhra Pradesh, Madras and Kerala. 

The zonal council consists of a Minister of the Government of 
India nominated by the President, the Chief Minister of the State 
concerned and two ministers nominated by the State Governors. 
The Minister nominated by the President is the Chairman of the 
zonal council. 



cabinet government in INDIA 


The zonal councils have been fomed to serve as a forum to 
bring about closer co-operation among the States, to settle Inter- 
State disputes and to formulate intcr-State development schemes. 
The councils lake decisions by majority vote, the Chairman 
having a casting vote. Sometimes, two or more zonal coundis 
may hold joint meetings. Each council has also a Secretariat to 
carry out its work.' 


THE JUDICIARY 

The Indian Constitution provides for a Supreme Court with a 
Chief Justice and a number of other judges, all of whom are 
appointed by the President. The Supreme Court has exclusive 
jurisdiction in disputes between the Government of India and 
the States and between the States themselves. The Court has 
appellate jurisdiction In dvil and criminal cases and the power to 
sanction spedal leave to appeal from any judgment, deaee or 
order passed by any court \n the country. The Court also issues 
directives, orden or writs for the enforcement of Fundamental 
Rights. The law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all 
courts in India. Besides, tbe Supreme Court may advise the Presi- 
dent on such questions of law or (act as may be refened to it by 
him. Above all, the Court has the power to nullify the acts of 
PajUament and State Legislations on the ground that such laws 
violate the Constitution, Thus the Supreme Coirrt plays a crudal 
role an Indian democracy by acting as the guardian of the 
Constitutian and protector of the people’s fundamental rights. 

The judiciary in the States consists of a High Court and other 
subordinate courts. The High Court has a Chief Justice and other 
judges whose ntimber is fixed from time to time by the President. 

' In prscOce. Che activity of the zonal counols depends largely on the per- 
sonality of the Union Home Minister. As die Statesman of Calcutta remarked 
in an editorial in January 196J, The coundlr. heralded with some fan- 
fare, are kept longer in mothballs diao out. and even when they are convened, 
are mostly call^ upon to deal wuh rdatively minor matters. Pandit Pant, 
when Home Minister, took the coundis miously. and had interesting ideas 
about them. But these died widi h i m , To Mr Shastri'r temperament the coun- 
cils were a gilt: but if be used them to evolve a consensus on many problems 
the country did not hear about It Mr Nanda has yet to show what his Inten- 
tions are. So if Mr Kamaraf wishes to pot the lonal Idea to work, he has many 



QUINTESSENCE OF THE CONSTITUTION 

The High Courts arc the highest courts of appeal in dvil and 
criminal matters in the States. The High Courts in Bombay, 
Madras and Calaitta have both original and appellate jurisdic- 
tion. 

These then are the main features of the Indian Constitution. 
How it has been working in the last sixteen years will be evident 
from the manner in which the Central Cabinet has been carrying 
on the administration of the country. 


39 



CHAPTER IV 


HOW THE CABINET WORKS 


PRACTICE IN BRITAIN 

A desaiption of the essential aspects of the cabinet system, as it 
has developed in England and from whose Constitution we have 
incorporated its main features, will be helpful to the proper 
understanding of the working of the Indian Cabinet. Writers on 
the British Constitution have used expressive phrases to empha- 
size the importance of the Cabinet. Bagehot, for instance, calls it 
'the hyphen that joins, the buckle that fastens, the executive and 
legislative departments together.' Sir John Mariott refers to it as 
‘the pivot round which the whole political machinery revolves.' 
In the words of Ramsay Muir, the Cabinet is 'the steering wheel 
of the ship of State,' while Sir Ivor Jennings considers it as 'the 
core of the British Constitution.' 

The chief chancteristlcs of the British Cabinet are political 
homogeneity, responsibility to the House of Commons, joint 
responsibility, and the ascendancy of the Prime Minister, 
Political homogeneity means that members of the Cabinet 
should belong to the same party. Their outlook should be more 
or less similar and their loj'alty to persons and principles should, 
to a great extent, be cotomon. In a coalition cabinet there will be 
members from more than one party but this does not affect the 
principle of homogeneity so long as they agree to work on the 
basis of collective responsibility. 

The members of the Cabinet ate responsible to the House of 
Commons for ‘every policy that they embark upon and for every 
action that they take.’ In the early stages of the development of 
the cabinet system in England, ministerial responsibility was an 
individual, not a collective, matter. Ministers were often 
impeached individually and Tcmoved from office when the 
Sovereign declined to dismiss them. 

But by the end of the eighteenth century, joint responsibihty 

40 



HOW THE CABINET WORKS 

had become a well established practice in the British Constitu- 
tion. This principle means, according to Lord Morley, 

'that every important piece of departmental poIic>' Is taken to 
commit the entire Cabinet and Its members stand or fall together. 
The Chancellor of the Exchequer may be driven from olTicc by a 
bad despatch from the Foreign Oillce and an excellent Home 
Secretary may suffer for the blunders of a stupid Minister of War. 
The Cabinet is a unit — a unit as regards the Sovereign and a unit 
as regards the legislature, ft gives Its advice as a single whole 
both in the royal closet and in the hereditary or representative 
chamber . . . The first mark of the Cabinet, as that institution is 
now understood, is united and JndivdsibJe responsibility.’ 

Collective responsibility docs not mean that a minister can 
misbehave svith impunity, A minister can certainly be dismissed 
If he commits any act of official indisaetion. Or he may resign 
of his own accord when he knows that he has incurred the dis- 
pleasure of the public and parliament, and that the latter will 
censure him. 

The asccndanc)’ of the Prime Minister is another fundamental 
feature of the Cabinet. For many years, the Prime Minister’s 
position was not officially recognized. Walpole. Britain’s first 
Prime Minister, was not only unwilling to be designated as such 
but denied any intention to assume supremacy in the Cabinet* 
and, strange as it may seem, it was only in 1937 that statutory 
recognition was given to this post. But the Prime Minister in- 
variably has been holding a ministerial position, usually that of 
the first Lord of the Treasury. To what extent the Prime Minister 
is able to dominate the Cabinet depends largely on his own 
personality. As wc have explained in a subsequent chapter, 
recent developments in the political and economic sphere have 
enormously enhanced the power and prestige of the office of the 
British Prime h/hnister. 

The Cabinet is the chief executive body. In a parliamentary 
democracy, the executive consists broadly of two elements — the 

'Walpole nid: 1 unequivoeatlf deny I am sole Prime Ntiaister and 
that to my influence and disaetioa aQ the affairs of Covemment must be 
attnbuted.' 

4 » 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


political and the bureaucratic. The political dement is represen- 
ted by ministers and the bureaucratic element by ci^’il servants, 
btinisters remain in office so long as they enjoy the confidence of 
the legislature. Ministerial changes do not normally affect civil 
servants. The latter enjoy permanency of tenure. Civil servants 
are experts while ministers generally are amateurs. The success of 
democracy depends chiefly on ho\v closely and efficiently the 
expert and the amateur work together in the interests of the 
country. 

The main functions of the Cabinet are to lay down policies, to 
initiate legislation and to co-ordinate the work of the various 
clepartments of the Government. It is the Cabinet's responsibility 
to control, direct and instruct the administration and to see that 
the will of the nation as expressed in parliament is carried out.* 

PROCEDURE IN INDIA 

Artides 74 and 75 of the Indian Constitution, quoted below, 
describe the functions of the Cabinet: 

74 (1) 'There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime 
Minister at the head to aid and advise the President In the 
exerdse of his functions. 

(1) The question whether any and, if so, what advice was 
tendered by Ministers to the Preadent shall not be enquired 
into in any court. 

75 (1) The Prime Minister shaU be appointed by the President, 
and other mimsters shall be appointed by the President on 
the advice of the Prime Minister. 

’The functions of (he BnCish Cahiaet were desenbed m the Report of the 
Machinery of Govertunent Committee of 1916 u follows : 
fi) The fins! deteniMatJon of the policy to he s^mitted to Parliament: 

<i) The supreme control of the nation^ executive in accordance wiUi the 
policy presenbed by ParliameDt; 

()) the continuous coordination and ddinutation of the acpvities of the 
several departments of State. 

But the above desenpeion does not fully and clearly bring out the important 
role of the British Cabinet of the preseat day. As Byrum E. Carter points out, 
■one would not realize from the sutement that the Cabinet actually ezeidses 
effective control over the FailiameDt and that nearly every measure of major 
importance is of Cabinet ongin. . . . "Ilie theory of parliamentary control of 
the Cabinet is only an illusion behind whidi is hidden the reibty of Cabinet 
control of the Parliament’ {The Offii* of Prime Minister by Byrtim E Carter.) 



HOW THE CABINET WORKS 


(i) The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the 
President. 

(3) The Cound! of Ministers shall be collectively responsible 
to the House of people. 

(4) Before a minister enters upon his office, the President 
shall administer to him the oaths of office and of secrecy 
according to the forms set out for the purpose in the Third 
Schedule. 

(;) A minister who, for any period of six consecutive months, 
is not a member of cither House of Parliament shall, at the 
expiration of that period, cease to be a minister. 

(fi) The salaries and aJIowaoces of ministers shall be such as 
Parliament may from time to time determine and until Par* 
liament so determines, shall be as specified in the Second 
Schedule. 

The Indian Constitution does not use the word Cabinet but it 
does incorporate the essential features of the Cabinet system as 
it operates in Britain, such as the supremacy of the Prime Min- 
ister and collective respoitsihility. Although the Constitution 
says that the ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the 
President, in practice they can do so only as long as they enjoy 
the confidence of the Prime Minister. However, there have been 
instances when a minister could not continue in office even when 
he had the confidence of the Prime Minister. The most conspic- 
uous example was that of V. K. Krishna Mcnon who, as Minister 
for Defence, was forced to resign in November, 1962 by pressure 
of public opinion although the Prime Minister was very anxious 
to retain him in the Cabinet.' 

The Indian Cabinet generally meets once in a week. The meet- 
ings are held in New Delhi at Rashtrapati Bhawan where the 
office of the Cabinet Secretariat is also situated. Sometimes, par- 
ticularly when Parliament is in session, more than one meeting 
in a week may be held, depending on the urgency and importance 
of the business to be transacted. The agenda and the connected 
papers are circulated to the members of the Cabinet a few days 
prior to the meeting. An item not on the agenda can be raised at 
the meeting with the permission of the Prime Minister, provided 
it is of great urgency. The duration of a Cabinet meeting depends 

' This is described in detail ia duptei VL 

4J 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


on the nature of the agenda, "nie longest session ever held by the 
Cabinet was on October 14. 1964 when it sat for four hours at a 
stretch to consider the outline of the fourth Five-Year Plan. 

Only Cabinet Ministers are entitled to attend the meetings. 
But Ministers of State are asked to attend when the subjects with 
which they deal come up for discussion or when the Cabinet 
Minister concerned is unable to be present. Chief Ministers are 
sometimes invited to the meetings when questions relating to 
their States are discussed and their presence is considered helpful. 
For example, P. C. Sen, Chief Minister of ^est Bengal and 
B. Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa, attended the Cabinet meet- 
ing on June 6, 1963 when the food problem in the Eastern region 
was causing concern. ^hcD issues of a technical nature — econo- 
mic, scientific or military — ^are discussed, the expert concerned 
is invited to the meeting and explain personally. The Deputy 
Chairman and the members of tbe Planning Commission are also 
asked to attend when problems relating to their respective plan- 
ning portfolios are on the agenda. 

The Prime Minister presides over the Cabinet meetings. In his 
absence, the Deputy Prime Minister used to preside so long as 
Sardar Patel held that post. Thereafter, the practice has been for 
the seniormost minister to take the Chair when the Prime Min- 
ister is unable to preside. Among those who have presided over 
the Cabinet meetings at one time or the other are Maulana Azad, 
Govvnd Ballab Pant, Moraiji Desai and Gulzatilal Nanda, 

There is no quorum for Cabinet meetings. A vote is taken 
rarely, the decisions being arrived at on the basis of mutual dis- 
cussions and understanding. Refcning to the practice in the 
British Cabinet, Attlee told his biographer Frands Williams; 
‘You don’t take a vote. No, never. You might take it on some- 
thing like whether you meet at 6.jo or 7.30 but not on anything 
major. In the same way, you never take a vote at a Common- 
wealth meeting of Prime Ministers. The Prime Minister collects 
the voices.’ Herbert Morrison says: *No voting, for the holding 
up o! hands or tbe calling of Aye and No would not only be 
regarded as a breach of Calrinct decorum but would also be felt 
to sy-mbolize and demonstrate, nakedly and unashamedly, a lack 
of Cabinet unity and solidarity. wWch is always deprecated.’ In 



HOW THE CABINET WORKS 


this respect also the Indian Cabinet is following the same proce- 
dure as in England. 

The decirfons taken at the Cabinet meetings are forwarded to 
the ministries concerned. The records of Cabinet meetings arc 
kept confidential and in matters of exceptional sccrec}’, the ded* 
sions are not put dovm In writing.* 

There are no definite rules as regards the subjects to be brought 
up for the Cabinet’s dedsion. Matters of a routine nature are 
disposed of by the relevant department. Only very important 
issues are referred to the Cabinet. Sometimes even major prob- 
lems are decided by (he minister concerned in consultation with 
the Prime Minister or they arc referred to the committee of the 
Cabinet and later confirmed by the latter. In some cases, the 
Prime Minister may take the decision on his own responsibility 
and then inform the Cabinet. Whether a subject is to be placed 
before the Cabinet or not depends mainly on the nature of the 
problem and the disaetion of the minister. It is no easy task for 
a minister to take a dedsion in this regard because as Sir Ivor 
Icnnings says, ‘a minister who refers too much is weak, he who 
refers too little is dangerous.* 

CABINET AND BUDGET 

A matter of great importance that (he Cabinet does not discuss 
is the general budget. It may seem odd indeed that such a vital 
subject as the budget, which affects intimately every department 
of the Government, should be outside the purview of the Cabinet. 
The detailed taxation proposals, prepared by the Finance Min- 
ister, are shown only to the Prime Alinister and perhaps to one 
or two senior ministers. This procedure may appear unsatisfac- 
tory. In fact. Asok Chanda, former Comptroller and Auditor 
General of India, does not seem to favour the present practice of 
preparing the Central budget. He recalls in his book Indian 
Administration that till 1935 the Viceroy’s Executive Council 

' Despite their conBdential nzture. Cabinet decisions sometimes leak out to 
the Press. For instance, Indet Malhotra, PoLtica] Correspondent of the 
Stotesman. wrote in his paper m December ij. 1964: During seventeen years 
of freedom, the Cabinet has fonnd time to devote thought to external pubhdty 
preasely twice: first in 1948 and then exactly ten years later in 1958.’ 

45 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

used to meet at a special session to discuss the budget proposals. 
But since 1935 this procedure vras discontinued with a view to 
preserving secrecy. The Finance Member of the Council, in pre- 
paring the budget, consulted only the Secretary of State for 
India, the Governor-General and the provincial governments in 
respect of those proposals that affected the latter’s revenue. The 
taxation measures were conveyed to the Executive Council at a 
special meeting on budget day. Chanda says that the adoption of 
this procedure by the interim government led to ‘serious differ- 
ences' over Liaquat Ali Khan’s budget proposals of i 947 ‘^' 
Chanda observes; ‘Despite this experience, the responsibility for 
the budget remains with the Finance Minister who discusses his 
taxation proposals with the Prime Minister and obtains his 
approval. The Prime Minister may tahe one or more of his senior 
coUeagues into his confidence or direct the Finance Minister to 
do SO! hut the proposals are divulged to the Cabinet only on the 
budget day In Parliament as before. So much for joint respon- 
sibility in a vital matter affecting directly the economic life of the 
country and indirectly its political orientations.’ 

C. Rajagopalachari also strongly criticized the budget proce- 
dure while commenting on the budget of 1963-4 which imposed 
adihtlonal taxation of about R$. 273 mores in a single year. 

Rajagopalachari said: 

The way in which the budgets are made and got ready for 
presentation leaves no room for the whole or a material section 
of the Cabinet to examine and advise upon it. or even to go 
through it. In order to safeguard secrecy, all consultation is 
avoided. The budget is batched by the officials working under 
the nomioal guidance of the Rnant* Mirustcr. If both the Prime 
Minister and the Finance Minister happen to be persons bliss- 
fully ignorant of the business of budget making, when all the 
economy of the coutitry comes under the direct or indirect infla- 
ence of the budget, the consequences are, what we see now, 
disastrous.’ 

But Chanda and Rajagopalachari do not seem fully justified in 
their ctiticisin. It is very unlikely that Liaquat Ali Khan would 
have refrained from his drastic tax proposals if only members of 
46 



HOW THE CABIHET WORKS 


the interim government had been made aware of the details 
before presenting the budget to the Central Legislature. Nor 
could Morarji Desai have avoided the heav)' taxation in 1963-4 
in view of the sharp and sudden increase in defence expenditure, 
following the Chinese invasion of India in October, 1962. It 
should be remembered that India is following in this respect the 
same practice in regard to the budget as prevails in England and 
other demoaatic countries. Lord Woolton stated in his 
Memoirs: 

‘The Chancellor is ailed upon to arry a responsibility much 
too heavy for any one man to atry . . . Incidentally, other mem- 
bers of the Cabinet are placed In considerable difficulty by this 
problem, since they be^me politially committed to financial 
decisions with which they may not agree; the decision to resign, 
and so disturb all the other work of the Government, is a hard 
one to take unless some vital national principle is involved.’ 

In the view of Anthony Eden, *A Chancellor of the Exchequer 
is wise if he shares his burdens to some extent with the Prime 
Minister: clearly, he annot share them with the whole Cabinet.’ 

It should also be noted that though the Cabinet annot discuss 
the budget before presentation, it an examine it afterwards, and 
it is always open to the Cabinet to modify the proposals before 
any mischief is done. Indeed, the Cabinet an even overthrow a 
budget altogether, in which ase the Rnance Minister will have 
to resign. The present procedure may not be perfect but so long 
as secrecy has to be maintained, there appears to be no alterna- 
tive.' 

‘We suy refer In tKii context to the anbarrasring position in which the 
Minister for Industry found himself oa F^miary a?. 1964. In the forenoon oi 
that day Nityananda Kanungo, Minister for Industry, told a member of the 
Lok Sabha, in reply to a qumUon, that there was no proposal on the part of 
Uie Goveniment of India to apperini a Commission to enquire into monopolies 
and concentration of wealth. But on the tame day in the afternoon T. T. 
KrUhnamachan, Finance Minister, while introducing bis budget for 1964-t, 
announced the government's intentton to set up a Commission to enquire into 
tnonopoLes and concentration of wealth. A few days later when members of 
the Lok Sabha pointed out the arntra^rbon in the statements, the Minister 
for Industry apologized to Uie House for the answer he had given on February 
19. and explained that what was being consideTed by the Finance Minister 
would not be known to the members of the Cabinet. Kanungo added : 'At the 
time I gave the answer, the positioii stated by me was, as then known to me, 
correct and I have no hesitation in admitting this position.' 

47 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


CABINET COMMITTEES 

The Cabinet has a number of permanent committees to deal with 
important subjects like Foreign Affairs, Economic Affairs, 
Defence, Rehabilitation of Refugees, Parliamentary Affairs and 
so on. Sometimes committees are set up to consider special prob- 
lems that may come up. Such committees are dissolved after their 
task is completed. Fot instance, in November, 1964 a special 
committee was constituted, consisting of the Home Minister, the 
Finance Minister, the Defence Minister, the Minister for Steel, 
the Law Minister, the Minister for External Affairs and the 
Education Minister to examine the charges of corruption levelled 
against the Chief Minister of Orissa and his colleagues. The duty 
of this committee was to recommend to the Prime Minister its 
views on the charges so as to enable him to decide whether a 
detaUed enquiry was called for and if so, in what form it should 
be conducted. The committees may also set up sub<ommittees 
whenever necessary. 

Referring to the role of Cabinet committees in England, J. F. 
Mackintosh says : 

‘No Government or Cabinet could operate nowadays without 
the shifting process and the preparatory work done by such 
committees. Sometimes committees set up to handle difficult and 
vital developments . . . take conttol of the major lines of policy 
and, for a period, become the effective centre of Government . . . 
Many issues are settled in these committees and never reach the 
Cabinet while some important questions go from the depart- 
ments through the committees to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet 
receiving a report after a decision has been taken.’ 

This is practically the same procedure adopted in India. 

In view of the great importance of Cabinet committees, it is 
understandable that ministers feel aggrieved when they are left 
out of some committee or the other. Thus Ambedkar complained 
to the Prime Minister when he was excluded from the Economic 
Affairs Committee in spite of the fact that he was primarily a 
student of economics and finance. In October 1962, the Emer- 
gency Committee was set up soon after the Chinese invasion, 
4S 



HOW THE CABINET WORKS 


consisting of six members, nomcly Nehru, Krishna Menon, 
Moratji Desai, Kiishnamachaii, Lai Bahadur Shastri and Nanda. 
This committee assumed great importance and many Issues svere 
discussed and disposed of by it without reference to the Cabinet. 
The other twelve Cabinet Ministers felt hurl at their exclusion 
and three of them were reported to have protested to the Prime 
Minister against their being kept out of this committee. Their 
protest, of course, was unheeded because no Prime Minister in a 
derooCTacy could be expected to consult all his Cabinet col- 
leagues when the nation is confronted with a serious threat to its 
very existence, and vital decisions have to be arrived at quickly 
and implemented with speed and vigour. As Byium E Carter 
says, ‘War requires that the Prime Minister exercise all his 
powers. It is not possible to rely upon brilliant colleagues, for 
decision will not wait for discussion nor will it wait for proposals 
to go through the regular channels.' 

The formation of the Emergency Committee led to inactivity 
of most of the other Cabinet committees. The Economic Affairs 
Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, for instance, held 
no meetings at all throughout 196). Early in )$64, an attempt 
was made to revive the regular Cabinet committees to enable 
ministers, who were not members of the Emergency Committee, 
to take part in dedsion-tnaking. 


THE CABINET SECRETARIAT 
In England the Cabinet had no separate seaetariat until Lloyd 
George introduced it in J916 during the first world war. Till 
then, no record was kept of Cabinet meetings, apart from the 
report that the Prime Minister submitted to the Sovereign. In 
such drcumstances, there was obviously a good deal of uncer- 
tainty and confusion about the dedsions reached at the Cabinet 
meetings. As Lord Curzon remarked, 'The Cabinet often had the 
very haziest notion of what its dedsions were: cases frequently 
arose when the matter was left so much in doubt that a minister 
went away and acted upon what he thought was a dedsion 
which subsequently turned out to be no decision at all, or was 
repudiated by bis colleagues.’ 

In India the secretarial work of the Executive Council was 
49 



CABINET GOVERHMENT IN INDIA 
CABINET COMMITTEES 

The Cabinet has a number of permanent committees to deal with 
important subjects like Foreign Affairs, Economic Affair^ 
Defence, Rehabilitation of Refugees, PaiUamentary Affairs aim 
so on. Sometimes committees are set up to consider special pro^ 
lems that may come up. Such committees are dissolved after their 
task is completed. For instance, in November, 1964 a special 
committee was constituted, consisting of the Home Minister, the 
Finance Minister, the Defence Minister, the Minister for Steel, 
the Law Minister, the Minister for External Affairs and the 
Education Minister to examine the charges of corruption levelled 
against the Chief Minister of Orissa and his colleagues. The duty 
of this committee was to recommend to the Prime Minister its 
views on the charges so as to enable him to decide whether a 
detailed enquiry was called for and if so, in what form It should 
be conducted. The committees may also set up subcommittees 
whenever necessary. 

Referring to the role of Cabinet committees in England, [. P* 
Mackintosh says : 

'No Government or Cabinet could operate nowadays without 
the shifting process and the preparatory work done by such 
committees. Sometimes committees set up to handle difficult and 
vital developments . . . take control of the major lines of policy 
and, for a period, become the effective centre of Government . . • 
Many issues are settled in these committees and never teach the 
Cabinet while some important questions go from the depart- 
ments through the committees to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet 
receiving a report after a decision has been taken.’ 

This is practically the same procedure adopted in India. 

In view of the great importance of Cabinet committees, it is 
understandable that ministers feel aggrieved when they are left 
out of some committee or the other. Thus Ambedkar complained 
to the Prime Minister when he vras excluded from the Economic 
Affairs Committee in spite of the fact that he was primarily a 
student of economics and finance. In October 1962, the Emer- 
gency Committee was set up soon after the Chinese invasion. 



THE CABINET WORKS 

Wt shall now consider the role o( the Prime Minister in the 
lodiati Cabinet.* 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

looked alter by the Viceroy’s Private Seaetary. But until 1955 
the Private Secretary was not allowed to attend the meetings of 
the Coun^. It was Lord Willingdon, Viceroy of India between 
1931*36 who initiated the practice of taking his Private Seac- 
tary to the Council's meetings. WUlingdon's successor continued 
this practice and the Private Secretary was also designated as the 
Secretary to the Executive Coundl, After the attainment of ind^ 
pendence, the Cabinet replaced the Council, and the Council's 
Secretary was designated as the Cabinet Secretary. 

'Thus the Indian Cabinet from the very beginning has had the 
advantage of a separate secretariat. It consists of the main secre- 
tariat, Organization and Methods Division, Military Wing, 
Economic Wing and the Central Statistical Organization. 

The functions of the main secretariat are to prepare the 
agenda for Cabinet meetings, in consultation with the Prime 
Ministen to circulate the agenda and the background papers to 
Cabinet Ministers and to record the proceedings of Obinet 
meetings. The main seaetariat also serves the Cabinet com- 
mittees and subcommittees. 

'The Organization and Methods Division works directly under 
the Prime Minister and is responrible for constant and critical 
evolution of the administrative procedures with a view to im- 
proving efficiency. The Division has a Director who is also the 
joint Secretary 0! the Home Ministry, a Deputy Director, an 
Assistant Director and secretarial staff. There are units of the 
Division in every ministry and meetings are held frequently to 
exchange ideas and evolve better methods of official procedures. 

The Military Wing looks after the secretarial work of the 
Cabinet Defence Committee and of such other committees set 
up under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence. The Economic 
Wing serves the Economic Affairs Committee and other com- 
mittees connected with problems of production and distribution. 

The Central Statistical Organization set up in 1951 is respon- 
sible for coordinating the statistical work of the different minis- 
tries and for the publication of a number of periodicals such as 
the Annual Statistical Abstract, Monthly Abstract of Statistics, 
and the Weekly Bulletin of Statistia. The Central Statistical 
Organization works under the Honorary Statistical Adviser to 
the Cabinet. 


50 



KEYSTONE OF CABINET ARCH 


countries, the Prime Ministen have vast powers of patronap. 
But in India these are greater because the Prime Minister aho 
appoints, subject to the formal approval of the President, the 
Governors of sixteen states. Moreover, by virtue of the unique 
position of the Congress Party, the Prime Minister has a majp 
voice in the selection of Chief Ministers of states and their 
Cabinets. 

In some important respects, however, the office of the British 
Prime Minister differs from that of the Indian Prime Minister. 
The British Prime Minister’s powers and functions are bapd 
largely on constitutional conventions. In India, on the other 
hand, the role of the Prime Minister is described in the Cp- 
stitution itself. The Prime Minister in Britain must be a member 
of the House of Commons, and he cannot lake part in the dis- 
cussions in the House of Lords. The Indian Constitution does not 
specifically prevent a member of the Rajya Sabha or the Upper 
House from becoming the Prime Minister; but by convention he 
will have to be an elected member of the Lok Sabha or the Lower 
House, since it is the more popular and representative chamber. 
But he can take part in the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha as 
well.’ The British Prime Minister does not hold charge of any 
particular department; he confines himself to general rapervision 
and overall control of the minbtry. But in India, un^ recently, 
the Prime Minister, in addition to his duties of co-ordination and 
supervision, was in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 
both countries the office carries tremendous prestige. It calls for 
tact and talent of a high order, and it was fortunate that India 
chose as her first Prime Minister a leader of the ability and 
integrity of Jawaharlal Nehru. 

Nehru became Prime Minister at fifty-eight, the araage age 
at which many Prime Ministers of England assumed m the 
present century. Asquith and Baldwin were both fifty-six, 
Salisbury fifty-five, Lloyd George fifty-three, Balfour fifty-four 
and Eden fifty -seven when they formed their first administration. 
But two of the famous Prime Ministers — Churchill and Attlee— 
could occupy lo Downing Street, only when they were sixty-six 
and sixty-eight respectively. 


‘ However, 
ilthough she 


Mrs Gandhi was elected as Prime Minister in ^uary 1966 
wts not a member of the lok Sabha. See chapter XII. 


5? 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

Most Prime Ministers of England had acquired vast parlia- 
mentary or ministerial experience before they held this high 
office. For example, Henry Campbell-Bannerman has been a 
member of the House of Commons for thirty-eight years, Balfour 
for twenty-eight years, Asquith for twenty-two years, Lloyd 
George for twent)'-six years, Baldwin for fifteen years, Mac- 
Donald for eighteen years, Churchill for forty years and Attlee 
for twenty years, prior to their first appointment as Prime Min- 
ister. But Nehru had no such experience. His father Motilal 
Nehru had won great renown for his debating skill in the Legis- 
lative Council of the United Provinces* and in the Indian Legisla- 
tive Assembly where he was the leader of the Congress Party for 
many years. But Jawahatlal Nehru had no ocasion to enter the 
legislature either at the Centre or in his State during the British 
regime.* 

However, Nehru had other qualities and qualifications for 
being chosen as India’s first Prime Minister. Educated at Hanow 
and Cambridge, he had travelled extensively is most parts of the 
world and acquired an intimate knowledge of international rela- 
tions. He had achieved fame as the author of some best-selling 
books and his views on national and foreign problems were gen- 
erally considered progressive. Although a student of science, he 
had taken, from an early age. a lively interest in economic and 
political problems. He recalls in his autobiography how while 
studying at Hanow, he surprised his teacher by reeling off the 
names of all the members of the Cabinet of Henry Campbell 
Bannennan who became Britain’s Prime Minister in i9oy, and 
he was the only student of his class who could do so. Moreover, 
by his sacrifice and sufferitjg— he had spent a total of nine years 
in jail — he had endeared himself to millions of his countryTnen 
especially the youth, who looked up to him for inspiration and 
guidance. 

There were other leaders like Sardar Patel, Rajagopalachari 

’ Now called Uttar Pradesh. 

•The only occasion when lawahaib! Nehru came into contact with 
administratiTe ptoblems. before he foined the interim government in Septem- 
ber 1946. was in his capaaCy as Oiainnan of .AUababad Munidpahty. This 
eapenence to him was. in the words of Midiael Brechet, "highly instructive". 
‘It brought the Intellectual down to eaiUi, into the realm of day-toJay 
administration wiUi its many unsavomy features." 

54 



KEYSTONE OF CABINET ARCH 

and Raiendia Prasad who had ^ acWeved 

their heroic part In the struggle for freedom and who, toeta'j 

enloyed in a considerable measure the affection “ “ 

the masses. But the nation’s choice fell on Nehru ^ 

from his other qualifications, he w^ 

colleagues; he wi better blown both m India and 

any o*er leader except Gandhi, and above aU, he 

by the Father of the NaSon for holding the most important office 

“SwSSinets under Nehru’sleadership. He 

his first Cabinet on August 15 , 1947 and the second Januaj 
26, 1950 when India proclaimed herself a Repubhc. Ue thir . 
fourth and fifth Cabinets were formed on May 13 . '954 Ap^ 
n 10S7 and May 12, 1962: after the first, second, and thud 
gLml elecffom respectively. There wme during *= “venteen 
years of Nehru's rule many ministerial resigna . , 

shuffling of portfoUos, but the Cabinet as “ /■"'le mamtamed a 
remaikible ability and continuity mairiy doe >” 
and the overwhelming majority of the Congress P ty 

™NeWs career as Prime Minister can be 'ii''i'*"L^SKembS 
thiee phajes: the first, from August 15, 1947 . . 

1950; ?he secoud from January 1951 

third from Septem^r 1965 till his death ID May 9 4* 

Phase I During the first ph^. NeWs 

Minister was severely limited due to the 

consisted of several powerM coUea^es who did iMjers 

eye with him on major problems. ' u »• wlio had 

who had not only not belonged to Copgrea but w^ad 

been its staunch opponents. There pVip Coneress 

for many years a vehement critic of GandM an 

especially in respect of their policy towards t e 

There wL Shyama Prosad Mookhexjee who vm 

with a communal organization like the 

There was Shanmukham Chetty who had a pi^r oUhe 

Justice Party which fiercely but unsuccessfuUy fou^t jlj con 

gress in South India. The Congress, neverthelcs. 

leaders in the first abinct because of its undersUndable anxiety 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

to make it as broadbascd as possible and to create an impression 
among the masses that the Congress, though it had a huge 
majority in Parliament, did not want to monopolize power. It 
was eager to share it even with those who had opposed it all 
along during the British regime. ( 

But it was not the presence of these men which really limited 
Nehru’s supremacy in the Cabinet. It was Sardar Patel’s power- 
ful personality that prevented Nehru from having that amount 
of freedom in the Cabinet which he came to have after 193®- 
Although Sardar Patel throughout his career had been a staunch 
Congressman and a close follower of Gandhi, he and Nehru 
differed widely on many major issues. 

Patel was a conservative in his views on political, economic 
and sodal problems. He never favoured a policy of appeasing the 
Muslims. He was, of course, eager to do justice to the Muslims 
but he was not, unlike Gandhi and Nehru, prepared to show 
them generosity at the cost of Hindus. He wanted to follow a 
tough policy towards Pakistan because he believed that any sign 
of weakness would expose India to attack and also lead to the 
oppression of the Hindu minority in that country. 

In the economic sphere Patel wanted the country to achieve 
quick progress bv enlisting the full co-operation and enthusiastic 
support of the business community. Consequently he did not 
approve of controls or other drastic measures like indiscriminate 
nationalization which would cripple private initiative and enter- 
prise. The acute shortage of capital and technical skill was 
another factor that inSuenced Patel’s policy. On land reforms, 
Patel’s outlook was progressive but cautious. He insisted, as in 
the case of the Princes, that zam'mdars and ja^rdars should be 
fairly compensated if their property was to be taken over by the 
Government. 

Nehru, a firm believer in socialism, wanted the State to partici- 
pate actively in the industrial development of the country. 
Although he acknowledged the importance of private enterprise, 
he would not give it the same amount of freedom that Patel 
favoured. Nehru was anxious to go ahead with sweeping 
agrarian reforms and he was impatient with legislative and 
judicial procedures that slowed down progress. 

As Deputy Prime Minister and KUnister for Home Affairs, 

56 



KEYSTONE OF CAB/NET ARCH 


States, and Information and Broadcasting, Patel, fourteen years 
senior to Nehru in age, held effective control over the adminis- 
tration including police and propaganda; and his authority over 
the party organization also was very considerable. The adminis- 
trative services appeared to have more confidence in Patel than 
in Nehru. The Indian Civil Service, which had produced some 
very able and patriotic officers, entertained genuine fears about 
their future on the eve of the transfer of power. They were afraid 
that their high salaries and privileges would be slashed and their 
security of tenure affected.* It was Patel who effectively dispelled 
their fears and inspired confidence in them by his assurance of 
fair treatment so long as they discharged their duties efficiently. 

In view of Patel’s strategic position, Nehru could not dom- 
inate the Cabinet in the same way as he could at a later stage. 
Although Nehru had a free hand in shaping foreign policy, in 
internal matters no major decision was, or could be, taken with- 
out the assent of Patel. There were occasions when Nehru and 
Patel were unable to agree on fundamental issues like the treat- 
ment of Muslims in India and the policy towards Pakistan. The 
details of their differences, which have been admirably described 
by Brecher in his biography of Nehru, need not concern us here. 
’S^at is important to note is that at one stage the split became 
so serious that Nehru even considered dismissing Patel from the 
Cabinet while Patel, too, manoeuvred to get rid of Nehru. Fortu- 
nately, the intervention of Gandhi saved the situation. Gandhi 
declared straight out that the Prime Minister had a right to 
select his own colleagues and could ask Patel to quit if his attitude 
to Muslims violated Cabinet policy. Nehru and Patel also came 
to realize, particularly after the assassination of Gandhi, that 
they could not any longer afford to carry their differences too 
far and that unless they worked together, there could be no 
unity, peace, or progress in India. 

'Nehru wrote in his auCotnognphy: "Of one thing. 1 am quite sure that 
no new order can be built op in Tnitu as long as the spirit of the tCS- 
pervades out administration and puUic serrites. That spirit of authoritarianism 
IS the ally of imperialism and it cannot coexist with freedom. It will succeed 
in aushmg freedom or will be swept away by itself. Only with one type of 
State it is hkely to £t in and chat U the fascitt type. Therefore, it is essential 
that the I.C.S. and other services msist disappear completely as such before 
we can start real work on a new otdet.' 

57 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

From the country’s point of view, it was certainly a great 
advantage that Nel^ and Patel jointly guided the destinies of 
the nation in the period inunedbtely after the attainment of 
freedom. Those were years of great anxiety and strain, and any 
false step would have seriously affected India’s integrity and inde- 
pendence. Nehru and Patel acted as a check on each other, and 
their combined wisdom helped India to tide over a most aitical 
phase in her history. As V. P. Mcnon, who played a crucial role 
in the transfer of power and to the integration of the States, 
says: 

Tt was. indeed, India’s good fortune that during the initial stage 
of freedom, the destinies of the country were jointly entrusted to 
Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patch One provided ideology while the 
other furnished realism. Both vdelded equal hold on the Con- 
gress; as such, in every act of theirs, both Nehra and Patel were 
compelled to turn their searchlight inwards and think of the 
possible reaction to the other. This avoided the two extremes; 
and in politics, the middle course is always the safest. It is, in my 
opinion, the greatest tragedy that this combination should have 
lasted only for forty months after the transfer of power.' 

Those II Fate! died in December 1950, and thereafter Nehru 
came to enjoy fat greater power in the Cabinet than before. 
There was no one now with the same towering personality who 
could act as a check on him , niere were indeed very competent 
and experienced leaders like Pandit Govind B^abh Pant, 
Maulana Azad, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Gopalaswami Iyengar and, 
at a later stage, Lai Bahadur Shastri. Morarji Desai and S. K. 
Patil. But none of them could fill the void left by the indomitable 
Sardar. The designation of E)cputy Prime Minister was qjedally 
created for him, and it is significant that till now tWs post has 
not been revived. 

How then did Nehru utilize this tremendous power and res- 
ponsibility? This question can be examined with reference to 
the choice of colleagues, allocation of portfolios and coordination 
of work. 

Although in theory the Prime banister in a democracy is free 
to choose his colleagues, in practice his freedom is greatly restricted 
by political and practical considerations. The Prime Minister 
58 



KEYSTONE OF CABINET ARCH 

must give due importance to leaders who have distinguished 
themselves by their patriotism and party work. A shrewd Prime 
Minister will always see that be gathers around himself col- 
leagues who are not only able but whose exclusion may be a 
source of embarrassment. 

As We have seen, in the early stages Nehru had to take into 
the Cabinet persons who had even fought against the Congress. 
His first Cabinet consisted of five non-Congressmen, namely, 
Shanmukham Chetty, John Malhai, C. H. Bhabha, S. P. Muk- 
hcr/ee and Ambedkar. But gradually the number of non-Con- 
gressmen was reduced, and by 1958 all the senior posts were 
held by Congressmen. In the choice of his colleagues Nehru had 
to take into account not only regional but also communal factors. 
Although all the States could not be given representation in the 
Cabinet, important ones like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, 
Gujarat, Ma^as, the Punjab and West Bengal could not be un- 
represented at any time. But Nehru gave too much weight to his 
own native State of Uttar Pradesh, which at one time had as 
many as four representatives in the Cabinet, including himself. 
Apart from regional claims, important communities like the 
Muslims and Sikhs must always be properly represented in the 
Cabinet. One unfortunate result of the influence of regional and 
communal factors was that the size of the Cabinet became big 
and unwieldy — an undesirable trend both from the point of view 
of effidency and economy. This aspect has been discussed in 
detail in chapter IX. 

So far as the distribution of portfolios is concerned, although 
this is mainly the responribility of the Prime Minister, here, too. 
his freedom is limited by practical considerations. As Ivor 
Jennings rightly remarks, some members of the Cabinet choose 
themselves and they have much to say about their assignments. 
Consequently, the Prime bCnister's free choice generally applies 
to less important offices. 

In India, Sardar Patel was very keen in having the portfolios 
of Home and States. T. T. Krishnamachari declined to rejoin the 
Cabinet after the general election in April ig6s unless he was 
given Rnance,* which he had held earlier. Manubhai Shah 

‘ However, KiUhnamadiari >(rined the Cabinec in Tone 1962 as Minister for 
Economic Onintination. Later, in August >96), he again became Finance 
Minirtet 


59 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

refused to take the oath as Minister of State for International 
Trade in April 1962 unless he was made a Cabinet minister. 
This was the first occasion when a minister refused to take the 
oath after his appointment had been announced by the President. 
But a few days later he agreed to work as Minister of State. 
Another example to show the Prime Minister's limitation in the 
choice of portfolios is provided by S. K. Patil’s resistance to 
Nehru’s attempt to shift his portfolio from Food to Railways in 
July 1963. Patil dedared puhlidy that he would quit the Cabinet 
rather than change his portfolio and he submitted his resigna- 
tion. Patil's objection was that a shift in his assignment, at a 
time when the Government was being strongly critidzed for its 
failure to increase food production, would be tantamount to a 
refiection on his work. Nehru, therefore, dropped the proposal 
and allowed Patil to handle Food.‘ 

Apart from limitations caused by personal factors, the distri- 
bution of portfolios in the Cabinet during the period under 
review was not done on a rational and realLric basis. Thus the 
Minister In charge of Food and Agriculture — a subject of great 
imnottanee in view of the perristent food shortage — had no con- 
trol over irrigation, on which depends largely the prosperity of 
agriculture, while the Ministry of Community Development, 
whose main task was to inaease agricultural production, was 
handled by a separate ministry. 

The Miiustry of Commerce and Industry, another key port- 
folio. was split in the most haphazard way. This Ministry at one 
time was a compact one, controlling practically all the important 
industries and main aspects of industrial policy. But gradually 
many major industries like coal, fuel, oil, steel and heavy engin- 
eering were taken away from it and entnxsted to separate Cabinet 
Ministers while International Trade was given to a Minister of 
State. 

Defence, always a vital subject, became more so after the 
Chinese aggression in October 1962. Yet surprisingly there was 
considerable confusion even in this sphere. In 1962 63 there 
were two Cabinet Ministers dealing with defence— Chavan, the 
Defence Minister and Kiishnamadiari. the Minister for Economic 

■ But in August «96j Nehru accepted fatil'* tesieaation which was sub- 
mitteii >in^w (he Kamataj Plan. 



KEYSTONE OF CABINET ARCH 


and Defence Coordination. Besides Biju Patnaik, the Chief 
Minister of Orissa, was also consulted on defence problems. In 
fact, Patnaik was given a room in the Ministry of External 
Affairs while he continued to be the Chief Minister of Orissa, 
until his resignation in August 1963 under the Kamaraj Flan. 

There is perhaps nothing very wrong in allocating portfolios 
in the above manner, provided the Cabinet as a whole worked 
like a team and the Prime Minister effectively co-ordinated the 
work of his colleagues. But this was not done. On the other hand, 
the various departments pulled in different directions, ministers 
openly criticiaed one another, and no serious attempt was made 
to weld the Cabinet into a cohesive unit. And nowhere was this 
lack of co-ordination seen more glaringly than in handling the 
food problem. 

Although under the Constitution agncultuze is a State sub- 
ject, the Central Government, too. has a great responsibility. It is 
the Centre’s duty to regulate imports, to ensure adequate and 
timely supply of fertilizers, to saoctioD suSdent funds for agri- 
cultural schemes, and to arrange the smooth movement of food- 
grains among the different parts of the country. But the Centre 
has failed to play its role properly. Brave declarations made by 
the Prime Minister from time to time to achieve self-sufficiencj* 
came to nothing, and even now, after over a decade of planning, 
agricultural production continues to be a gamble in tains and 
about Rs. 100/- to Rs. ijo/- crores are spent annually on impor- 
ting foodgiains from abroad. The way in which the Centre has 
handled the food problem provides an illuminating commentary 
on the working of the Cabinet system. 

Ajit Prasad Jain, who was Minister of Food and Agriculture 
from December 1954 to August 1959. told the Lok Sabha after 
his resignation that important dedrions on food policy were 
taken not by the Food Ministry or the Cabinet but by other 
agencies like the Planning Commission, the National Develop- 
ment Council and the Congress High Command and, regrettably, 
these dedrions were often taken without a proper study of their 
implications. Referring, for instance, to the dedsion of the 
National Development Council to introduce State Trading in 
foodgrains and to Increase the target for food production in the 
second plan from fifteen per cent to forty per cent, Jain said: 

61 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


‘On both the occasions, the decisions descended meteor-like from 
the sky. Neither specifically nor by implication was cither of the 
items mentioned. No studies were made by the Ministry of Food 
and Agriculture which was responsible for implementing the 
dedsion. No notes were prepared and put up before the Coundl. 
No State Minister knew that he would be called upon to give his 
views until the proposals burst upon the Council.' 

Jain also pointed out that complaints against the Food Ministry 
should be directed against other ministries — the Ministry of Irri- 
gation and Power which was responsible for providing water for 
cultivators; the Ministry of Community Development for grow- 
ing more food; the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for the 
supply of fertilizers; the Ministry of Health for checking the rise 
in population; the Ministry of Railways for movement of food- 
grains, and lastly, the State Governments for the actual imple- 
mentation of the various policies relating to agriculture. 

S. K. PatU who succeeded Jain as Food Minister* also had to 
encounter serious difficulties on account of the lack of co-opera- 
tion from other departments and from the Planning Commission. 
In fact, there were even open clashes between him and Nanda, 
the Planning Minister, on food policy. For instance, at the meet- 
ing of the All-India Congress Committee held in New Delhi in 
April 1963 PatU said that the Planning Commission had fixed 
unrealistic targets. He complained of lack of co-operation among 
the ministries and observed that his department had no control 
over Irrigation, Co-operation and Community’ Development. 
Nanda said that PatU's speech created the impression that the 
Ministry of Agriculture had nothing to do with agriculture but 
everybody else had 1 He called for clear ideas on the subject and 
said : ‘Let not our own party man go on undermining our insti- 
tutions.' Nanda confessed that many of the difficulties arose out 
of the fact that the administration was subordinated to politics 
and that one section of the Congress worked against another 

‘ Pibl w»t the fifth hrinitter to lun^e the Food Portfolio »lnce Indepen- 
dence. In December 196 ). In s fpeeeh In Bombay. PsOl expressed the view 
that frerjuent chanjes In the Food BUnlstty would not be helpful to toire the 
food problem. He added i Tt noraulljr toi* a hfinitter about two yean to 
acquaint himself with the complexities ©f the food problem. A Food Minister 
should be allowed about ten years before hit ability la deal with the problem 
eould be |ud;ed* 


6a 



KEYSTONE Of CABINET ARCH 


even al ministerial level. 'If things were to improve,' he declared, 
'there thonW be someone to enforce discipline’. 

The lack of ccwjrdlnajion was also seen in handling defence. 
We have stated earlier that after October 1961, defence prob- 
lems Vi-ere looked after by tvk'o Cabinet Ministers and a State 
Chief Minister. 'Hiere Is no doubt that the aivodation of Patnaik 
s^ith the work of defence was dearly iinconstifuilona) and 
politically improper. 

Patnaifcwas ayoung and dating politician— he was only forty- 
eight when he b^me Chief Minister of Orissa in 1961— and he 
bad shown remarkable porvett of organization In achieving the 
victor)' of the Congress Party in the elections of 196a. He took 
a keen interest In aviation and created a sensation when he flew 
the Indonesian Premier Sutart Shahtiar during liic Indonesian 
freedom fight against the Dutch. He was the first Indian pilot to 
land In Srinagar after Pakistan's im'asion of Kashmir in 1947. 
He had also won his laurels as a successful industrialist. These 
achievements seemed to have Impressed Nehru who described 
Patnalk as a man with ‘unusual experience’. 

But Fatnaik soon proved himself tactless by the statements he 
made In the usa, which caused considerable embarrassment to 
the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and Parliament. In 
March 1963 the Prime Minister sent him to the USA, with the 
approval of the Emergency Q>roinitfec of the Cabinet, to have 
exploratory talks with (he American government on certain 
aspects of defence. Ordinarily, either Chavan. the Defence Min- 
ister, or Krishnamachari, (he Minister for Economic and Defence 
Co-ordination, should have been asdgned to this job. But to the 
surprise of many, Patnaik was chosen: and in his talks with the 
US newsmen, he gave several details of India’s military prepara- 
tioTis and her requirements of radar, communication facilities, 
planes and other essential equipment. 

Fatnaik’s disclosure caused indignation in India. Members of 
the Lok Sabha angrily asked the Prime Minister how Patnaik. 
the Chief Minister of 3 State, who was not a member of Parlia- 
ment, could disclose vital facts about defence, which had been 
deliberately withheld from the House on grounds of security. 
Nehru admitted that he himself was 'surprised and distressed’ 
but he sought to justify Patnaik’s action by saying that the latter 

63 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


was adopting the practice followed in the USA where the authori- 
ties gave the public many particulars about military preparations. 
The Lok Sabha was however unconvinced and the Speaker 
deplored the fact that Patnaik had given out information that 
had been denied to the House. 

The role of Krishnamachari as Minister of Economic and 
Defence Co-ordination created considerable uncertainty and 
embanassment to bis colleagues for some time. He rejoined the 
Cabinet in June 1962 as l^nister without Portfolio but was 
designated l^nlster for Economic and Defence Co-ordination in 
November 1962, The main departments of this Ministrj' were 
the Department of Supply, the Department of Technical Devel- 
opment and the Department of Economic Co-ordination. None 
of these departments was new. The Supply Department was a 
part of the original Works, Housing. Supply and Rehabilitation 
Ministry. The Technical Wing was part of the Commerce and 
Industry Ministry, while there was already a cell in the Cabinet 
Secretariat dealing svith the problem of Cabinet co-ordination. 
All these departments were now brought under one ministry. 

But neither Parliament nor Krishnamachari himself was quite 
clear about the exact nature of his duties.' During the debate in 
Parliament on the budget in April 196). members from all parties 
persistently questioned the Minister about his assignment and 
complained that, far from effecting co-ordination, the Ministry 
was creating complications.* Thereupon Krishnamachari ex- 
plained that his Ministry's functions were similar to those of the 
Ministry of War Production in the United Kingdom, which was 
created in February 1942 and assigned to Lord Beaverbrook. The 
latter however resigned erwing to ill-health and Oliver Lyttlelon 
(later Lord Chandos) took it over. Krishnamachari read out the 
following passage from a speech delivered by Lyttleton in the 
House of Commons in March 1942: 

‘ Krishn2madi2ri deioibcd Bif portfolio as ’this ntbuloiu assignment’. When 
Lord Mountbattm wtio visited India in lime 196] enquired of Krishnamachari 
about his work, he replied; 'My dunes? 'That, my Lord, is what I myself 
would like to know.' 

• Referring to newspaper reports of Parbiment’t criticism of his Ministry. 
Knshnamachari said: "I read in a paper this morning that 1 have been under 
fire. Well. I did examine my coat today bat I taw that no part of it had been 


64 



KEYSTONE OF CABINET ARCH 


*1 think it if the wish of the House that I should deal with the 
powers that have been conferred upon me. I would like to make 
it dear that they are the powers for which I ask, and that as far 
as I have been able to see during a short study of the problem, 
they are both adequate and precise. They have not been incor- 
porated in a White Paper and I am sure the House will agree 
upon two things. The first is that to work upon a charter over 
such an extremely wide and varied field would be extremely 
difficult and would involve a very long document of almost legal 
precision when something more flexible is required. Secondly, I 
tbink that the actual control over certain vital supplies and 
services will count much more than any paper mandate.' 

Kiishnamachari added, 'That fits in with the broad picture of 
the duties that the Prime Minister has assigned to me.' 

The division of responsibility for defence between the two 
ministers caused friction and misunderstanding. As the Parlia- 
mentary Correspondent of the Statesman pointed out in a des- 
patch from New D^lhi in April 1963, 

'There Is no evidence yet, there is much to the contrary, that the 
two ministers directly concerned with security are working to- 
gether as a war-time team, each informed by a sense of crisis and 
each giving the other all the cooperation if can. In either of 
them one can hear loud complaints against the other, much of it 
backed fay facts and figures, and each insists that greater effi- 
ciency is possible only if more powers are transferred to if.’ 

The lack of co-ordination was bad enough. What however was 
more unfortunate was that even senior ministers pubb’dy aiti- 
ri rpd one another, sparing neither the Prime Minister nor the 
Government as a whole. We have already lefened to the open 
quanel between G. L. Nanda and S. K. Patil. Another example 
is that of Krishnamachari who, in bis address to the thirty-fifth 
annual meeting of the Central Board of Irrigation and Power on 
February 15, 1963, critidzed the Planning Commission (of 
which Nehni was the Chairman) for unrealistic planning, the 
Government departments for bring too slow, the States for Iwing 
too parochial, and his own Ministry of Economic and Defence 
Co-ordination for lacking the composite picture of production 

c ^5 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

the responsibility for implementing it. Nehru alone was to dedde 
who should remain in office and who should take up party work. 
Nehru also offered his resignation to the All-India Congress 
Committee but the latter promptiy and ffrmly rejected it and 
reaffirmed its faith in his leadership. 

Phase III Nehru availed himself of the opportunity to reorga- 
nize the Cabinet; and he accepted the resignations of six of his 
Cabinet colleagues: Morarji Desai, S. K. Patil, Lai Bahadur 
Shastri, Jagjivan Ram, Gopata Reddy and Shrimali.* The occasion 
was utilized to reduce the size of the Cabinet and to reallocate 
the portfolios in a more rational manner.* The important changes 
made were the following : Swaran Singh was made Minister of 
Agriculture and he was given overall charge of the Ministries of 
Inigation and Power, and Community Development and Co- 
operation in respect of their acti\ities connected with agricultural 
production. 

With the transfer of Finance to T. T. Krishnamachari, the 
Ministry of Economic and Defence Coordination was abolished. 
But a Department of Coordination in the Ministry of Finance 
was aeated, the other departments in this Ministry being the 
Department of Economic Affairs, the Department of Expenditure 
and the Department of Revenue and the Department of Com- 
pany Law. 

A single Cabinet Minister was placed in charge of Education, 
Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs, the idea being to ensure 
the most effective utilization and training of the educated man- 
power resources of the country. M. C. Chagla, formerly Chief 
Justice of Bombay, Indian Ambassador in the USA, and High 
Commissioner in the UK, was given this portfolio. 

The importance of the Ministry of Industry was restored to 
some extent by transferring to it control over cotton textiles, 
handlooms and jute which were managed by the Ministry of 

*NAni also accepted the ralpisUoiu of »ix chief minlrtei* of State*, 
namely Kamaraj of hladm. B. Fatnalk of Orissa, B. Jha of Bihat, B. A. Mandloi 
of hladhya Fndesh. G. P. Gupta of the UJ. and Bakshl Gulam hfuhaiainad of 
Kashmir. 

•The reallocation w« done over a period of fire months, from September 
196} to fanuary 1964. 

6S 



KEYSTONE OF CABINET ARCH 


International Trade. Cement also was transfened to the Ministry 
of Industry from the Ministry of Heavy Industries. 

Another major development was the appointment of Lai 
Bahadur Shastri as Minister without Portfolio. He was to perform 
such functions as might be assigned to him by the Prime Minister 
in relation to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Department 
of Atomic Energy, and the Cabinet Secrefariat.* 

The reallocation of portfolios* in the above manner was more 
rational than before. Nevertheless, there were some anomalous 
arrangements. For instance, subjects connected with industry 
and commerce, which were of crucial importance in a developing 
economy, came to be handled for four Ministers. C. Subzamaniam 
was in charge of Steel, Mines and Heavy Engineering, and 
Humayun Kabir was given Petroleum and Chemicals, and both 
of them were members of the Cabinet. Manubhai Shah and 
Nityananda Kanungo, both Ministetsof State, were given charge 
of International Trade and Industry respectively. Manubhai 
Shah was once again reported to have protested to the Prime 
Minister in fanuary 1964 when cotton and jute textiles were 
taken away from him, pointing out that he could not promote 
exports effectively if he was not given control over these major 
earners of foreign exchange. His protest, however, was ignored. 

The Cabinet during the third and last phase of Nehru's 
Premiership was more compact and homogeneous than ever 
before. Never since the achievement of independence had Nehru 
enjoyed so much power as he did since September 196}. He 
wielded absolute authority in the Cabinet and was in a position 
to implement his policies without opposition from his colleagues. 

‘He is now the apex not only of a highly centralized political 
machine but also an equally centralized and vastly more power- 
ful administrative machine. In both these machines, loyalty has 
become the supreme virtue, and independence of thought a 

' Shastri's recall to the Cabinet became necessary because of Nehru’s illness. 
Nehru started delegating his functions to his colleagues only when lU-healch 
made it impossible for him Co carry on as before. 

'It is interesting to note that ministen did not always confine themselves 
sfricfly to their respectjve portfolios: For Injtance: ChigU, the Minister for 
Education, argued the case for India in die United Nahons on the Kashmir 
dispute in the early months of 1964. Smilarly. Swaran Singh, the Minister of 
Food and Agriculture, actively helped die Fnme Minister on certain occasions 
in handling external aSairs 


69 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


dangerous adventure.’ These words, used by R. H. S. Grossman 
to describe the present position of the British Prime Minister, 
seemed appropriate in the case of Nehru as well. 

Nehru's role as Prime Minister has come in for criticism on 
several grounds. It is pointed out, for instance, that he some- 
times took major decisions without consulting the Cabinet, that 
he was unable or unwilling to enforce discipline or ensure co- 
ordination, and that he deprived his colleagues of initiative by 
interfering too much with the details of adiinistration. There is 
indeed a good deal of truth in these criticisms. But it is necessary 
to understand them in proper perspective. 

It should be remembered that there is nothing unconstitu- 
tional if the Prime Minister on certain occasions first takes the 
decision and then gets it endorsed by the Cabinet. A study of 
the Cabinet system in other countries shows that nowhere is the 
Prime Minister able or willing to consult all his colleagues before 
Caking every important decirion. 

Lloyd George and Churchill, it is well known, often took 
major decisions without consulting the Cabinet. So did Attlee in 
teprd to the testing of the BritiA atomic bomb and Anthony 
Eoen in deciding to launch an attack on Port Said during the 
Suez Crisis of 1956. In these instances, the Prime Ministers con- 
cerned took into confidence only a few colleagues and permanent 
advisers. There have also been mauy similar examples in other 
countries. Indeed, R. H. S. Ciossman goes so far as to say that ‘a 
British Prime Minister is now entitled on really momentous deci- 
sions to act first, and then to face his Cabinet with the choice 
between collective obedience or the political wilderness.’ _ 

The lack of uiuty and team spirit in Nehru’s Cabinet should 
not be exaggerated. The situation in this respect was far better 
in the final phase of his Premiership than in earlier years; and 
moreover, in no coxmtry has it been possible for the Prime 
Minister to eliminate entirely fedings of jealousy and misunder- 
standing among his colleagues. 

Lord Beaverbiook, in his Decline and Fall of Lloyd George, 
recam how Lord Cuizon, the Foreign Secretary, had to face 
considerable embarrassment because his colleague Winston 
Churchill, the Colonial Secretary, often made policy statements 
regarding foreign affairs without consulting the Prime Minister 

70 



KEYSTONE OF CABINET ARCH 


or Cutzon. ‘Wimton’, said Uoyd George, the Prime Minister, 
'has always been in the habit of making these pronouncements 
on his own. He did it under the Asquith administration con- 
stantly whenever there was a chance of a real limelight effect.' 

Sir Hugh Dalton in his Memoirs observes; 'Politics, whether 
demoaatic or dictatorial, is a most competitive trade and I doubt 
if in any British Cabinet or its counterpart elsewhere, there has 
been no jealousy, no incompatibility of temperament, no sincere 
difference of opinion on grave issues.’ The same point was also 
made by Krishnamachari when in April 196}, members of the 
lok Sabha complained of serious differences between himself and 
the Defence hhnister. Krishnamachari said; Tf two people do 
not have any diff’erences all the time, one of them is useless. 
Many of the honourable ZBcmbcrs, who have levelled that accu- 
sation against me and my colleagues, are married people, and I 
am sure they have differences with their wives. Still they live 
to«thcr and work together.’ 

in the course of 1 ^ long career as Prime Minister, Hehni 
sometimes made mistakes or took the wrong decisions but every 
time he was able to come out unscathed became of his tremen- 
dous pcstige. Even when India was put to shame by the Chinese 
invasion in October 1962 and the entire country felt indignant 
about it, Nehru was spared although, constitutionally and 
morally, he was responsible for the failure to defend the nation 
against external aggression. On this occasion, the people’s wrath 
was Erected agdnst Krishna Menon, the Defence Minister, and 
the pressure of public opinion forced him to quit the Cabinet. 
The incident affected Nehru’s ptotige to some extent but ordy 
for a short time and, as we have seen, after the Kamaraj Plan 
came into operation, he once again emerged as the nation's 
supreme leader, with more power and prestige than ever before. 

Another important occasion when the Indian Prime Minister 
displayed lack of firmness and foresight was in regard to India's 
agreement with the United States over the loan of a transmitter. 
Soon after the Chinese invarion of India, the Government felt 
that it needed a powerful transmitter to counter effectively 
Chinese radio propaganda. Sodi a transrmtter was readily avail- 
able only from the USA. Accordingly, an agreement was signed 
between India and the USA by which the latter agreed to give a 

71 


CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

transmitter on loan to India on condition that the Voice of 
America would be permitted to broadcast through it for two 
hours every day. Another condition was that Incha should not 
use the transmitter for broadcasting to Pakistan. 

But when the agreement vras published, the Communist Party 
strongly protested against it, pointing out that a foreign country 
should not be permitted to broadcast from Indian soil. Moscow 
too was reported to be unhappy about it. Nehru, always sensitive 
to Russian reaction, quickly decided to bad: out of the agree- 
ment. 

At the Press Conference in New Delhi on October 9, 

Nehru was dosely questioned on this subject. His defence was : 
‘Mistakes occur even in the best regulated families.’ He explained 
that the agreement was brought to his notice, in bits, on two or 
three occasions but not as a whole. He was, moreover, heavily 
occupied with other matters and did not dearly understand its 
ImpUations. ‘When the deal came to me as a whole,’ said Nehru, 
‘and I saw it as such, I reacted strongly to it. Immediately after- 
wards. the next day or the day after, we were having a Cabinet 
meeting, and I put it before them and they also reacted against 
it.’ 

Another remarkable revelation made by the Prime Minister at 
this Press conference was that GopaU Reddy, the Cabinet Min- 
ister in charge of Information and Broadcasting, had ‘nothing to 
do’ with the agreement. WTien a correspondent asked him 
whether it was not strange that a minister should be unaware of 
what was happening in his own ministry, Nehru replied : ‘It is 
not strange. The same criticism could apply to me. The External 
Affairs Ministry was also concerned wth It very much.' 

It is necessary to point out that there was nothing unusual 
about this agreement in the sense that similar agreements had 
been concluded by the USA with a number of countries like the 
UK. Greece, Liberia, Morocco, the Philippines and Ceylon. The 
UK also had set up transmitters in West Germany, Malaya and 
Singapore, with arrangements for the sharing of time as was 
provided for in the Indian agreement with the USA. Neverthe- 
less, India went back on the agreement and, curiously, its repu- 
diation evoked hardly any serious protest in the country, which 
was another proof of Nehru's remarkable hold over public opinion. 

7 * 



CHAPTER VI 


REMARKABLE RESIGNATIONS' 


Ministfrial re5ignations are a normal feature in a parliamentary 
demoCTacy. Ministers may leave the Cabinet for many reasons — 
ill health, old age, or for faking up diplomatic or other assign- 
ments. They may also retire voluntarily owing to serious differ- 
ences in policy, or may be compelled to go by pressure of adverse 
public opinion, or asked by the Prime Minister to quit for incom- 
petence or for any other reason. In India there were many 
resignations from the Obinet during the seventeen years of 
Nehru's regime, but here we are concerned only with those 
cases that involved important political and constitutional impli- 
cations. 

STANDARD OF INTEGRITT MUST BE ABSOiUTELY 
FIRST RATE 

R. K. Shanmukham Chetty was the first minister to quit the 
Cabinet. As a young mao, Chetty had taken an active part in the 
Congress but later he left it and joined the Justice Party of 
Ma^as. He had held a number of important posts under the 
British Government such as Frerident of the Indian legislative 
Assembly, Chairman of the Tariff Board and Dewan of Cochin, 
and he represented India at many international conferences. He 
had a profound knowledge of financial and economic problems, 
and just before the achievement of independence, the Federation 
of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry was contem- 
plating whether to appoint him as its paid president. Few, there- 
fore, expected that he would be offered the key portfolio of 
finance in India’s first Cabinet. In fact, Chetty himself stated, 
when the appointment was announced, that he could not believe 
his eyes and that he was most happy.* But his happiness did not 
last long. 

* We may recall Churchill'* reartioa to hi* appointment as Chancellor of 
the Exchequer, which came as a complete surprise to him. When in 1914. 
Baldwin told him. “I can offer yoij Ae of Chaneellor', Churchill enquired. 
‘Of the Duchy of Lancaster?’ & tiocente post). Baldwin rephed, “No. of the 
Exchequer.’ 

73 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

Trouble arose soon when, while presenting his interim budget 
in August 1947, Chetty praised the generosity of the British in 
quitting India gracefully, but without saying a word about the 
part played by the Congress in winning freedom. This evoked 
protests from the Congress, and Chetty apologized to the party. 
His first budget presented on February 14, 194S received warm 
appreciation both from the Congress and from other sections of 
Parliament. But unfortunately he seemed to have been rather 
tactless on withdrawing, against the advice from the Central 
Board of Revenue, certain cases from the purview of the Income 
Tax Evasion Commission. It was alleged that Chetty had grossly 
abused his authority by showing favouritism to his friends in the 
business communit)’. The Cabinet considered the matter at two 
meetings and came to the conclusion that Chetty had done no 
wrong, and all that could be said against him was that he had 
committed an error of judgment. But the Congress Party was not 
convinced, and influential members like Pattabhi Sitaramayya 
and Anantasayanam Ayyangar vi^rously asserted that Chetty 
had brought down the prestige of the Congress Party. Chetty, 
therefore submitted his resignation on August 15, 194S, exactly 
one year after he assumed office. 

In his statement to Pacliameot, Chetty explained in detail the 
cucumstancts leading to his le^gnation and pointed out that 
the Prime Minister was ‘good enough and generous enough to 
repeat on more than one occasion that he was thoroughly satis- 
fied with my honesty and booafides.' 

‘But,’ he added, ‘notwithstanding this assurance from the Prime 
Minister, I felt that in the context of the new independence that 
oiu country has obtained, in the context of the parliamentary 
institutions which we have begun to work, we must set abso- 
lutely the highest standards of int^rity in public, not even the 
second rate standards would be sufficient for us. They must be 
absolutely fint rate. Even though a minister’s conduct and bona- 
fides may be justified by argument, yet if, in the minds of our 
people, who may not understand these technicalities, there is 
room even for suspicions, such a minister ought not to continue 
in office, and it is under these dicumstances that I requested the 
Prime Minister to relieve me of my office.’ 

74 



REMARKABLE RESIGNATIONS 


POLICY TOWARDS PAKISTAN — WEAK, HALTING, 
INCONSISTENT 

The next important resignations were those of Shyama Prasad 
Mukherjee (Minister of Industry and Supply) and ^ C. Neogy, 
Minister of Commerce. They resigned because of their disagree- 
ment over the pact which Nehru had concluded with Liaquat 
Ali Khan, the ftime Minister of Pakistan, regarding the treat- 
ment of minorities in that country. The pact was strongly con- 
demned particularly by Mukherjee in the statement he made in 
the Lok Sabha on April 19, i9yo. “My differences,* said Mukher- 
jee who had served in the Cabinet for two-and-a-half years, 'are 
fundamental, and it is not fair or honourable for me to be a 
member of the Government whose policies ] cannot approve of. 
I have never felt happy about our attitude towards Pakistan. It 
has been weak, halting and incon^tent.’ 

Mukherjee gave seven main jeasons for bis inability to accept 
the Nehru-Llaquat pact. In the first place, he said, two such 
agreements had been concluded before between India and Pakis- 
tan, and they bad been violated by the latter. He felt that any 
agreement which had no sanction would offer no solution. 
Secondly, the crux of the problem was Pakistan’s concept of an 
Islamic State and the ultra commuiul administration based upon 
it. The agreement side-tracked this cardinal issue. Thirdly, the 
agreement made it appear that India and Pakistan were equally 
guilty though clearly Pakistan was the aggressor. The provision 
in the agreement that neither side would encourage endtement 
to war sounded fardcal so long as Paldstan’s troops occupied a 
portion of Indian territory in Kashmir and warlike preparations 
were being conducted. Riurthly, the agreement made no provi- 
sion to compensate those who had suffered, nor would the guilty 
ever be punished because no one would ever dare to give evidence 
before a Pakistani court. Sixthly, while Hindus would continue 
to come away from Pakistan, (hose who had come would not be 
prepared to go back. On the other hand, Muslims who had gone 
away could now return; and because of India’s determination to 
implement the agreement, Moslims would not leave India. In 
such a situation, the Indian economy would be put to great 
strain. Finally, the agreement had reopened the problem of the 
75 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

Muslim minority in India, thereby reviving those disruptive 
forces which were responsible for the creation of Pakistan. 

In condusion, Mukhctice appealed to those who had faith in 
the agreement to discharge their responsibility by going to East 
Bengal, not alone but accompanied by their wives, sisters and 
daughters, and bravely share their burden of joint living with 
the unfortunate Hindu minorities of East Bengal. 


A PARALLEL AUTHORITY TO CABINET 
The resignation of John Mathai from the Cabinet in 1950 was 
also due to fundamental differences. He started his career as a 
Professor of Economics in Madras and held a number of impor- 
tant posts under the British Government, such as Director- 
General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics, and Chairman 
of the Tariff Board. After retirement from government service, 
he joined the house of Tata as a Director. He was given the 
Education portfolio in the interim government and he took over 
Finance on the resignation of Shankukham Chetty. 

Mathai’s resignation from the Cabinet was mainly over the 
appointment of the Planning Commission. Mathai himself was 
a believer in the need for economic pbnning and he was a signa- 
tory to the famous Bombay Plan of 1944. which was jointly put 
forward by a number of eminent industrialists including G. D. 
Blrla and f. R. D. Tata. Mathai, however, felt that the proposed 
Planning Commission was unnecessary and unworkable. 

In a statement issued on June 3, 1930, Mathai said ; 

‘There are at present on the shelves of the various ministries of 
the Government of India plans costing nearly Rs. 3,000 acres, 
which have been held up foe lack of finance, materials, and 
technical personnel. In my opinion, what is required at present is 
first to draw up a strict order of priority for the existing plans 
based on the available resources of the country and. secondly, to 
work out the existing plans in detail at the technical end because 
no blue-print can be put into execution until the technical issues 
have been worked out in detaiL' 

Mathai felt that new plans could be carried out only by 

76 



KEMARKABLE RESIGNATIONS 

larger defidli which were 'unthinkable jn the present dreum- 
stances.' He was afraid that the Commission was tending to 
become a supcr-Cablnet, inoeasing the area of argumentation 
and discussion inside the goveroment and causing delay in 
arriving at decisions on immediate problems. ‘Cabinet responsi- 
bility has definitely weakened since the establishment of the 
Planning Commission,’ declared Mathai. ‘The members of the 
Commission,' he added, ‘have been given the same place in the 
warrant of precedence as Cabinet ministers, and their salaries and 
allowances have also been fixed in accordance with those of 
Cabinet ministers. With the Prime Minister presiding over such 
a body, it is diOicult to resist the Planning Commission develop- 
ing into a parallel authority of equal standing with the Cabinet.’ 

Mathai particularly objected to the arrangement by which a 
Cabinet Minister, holding the key portfolio of finance, was to 
serve as an ordinary member of a body of which the working 
head, namely, the Deputy Chairman, was a paid employee of the 
Government. He felt that this would weaken the authority of 
the Finance Minister and also that of the Cabinet. 

Apart from his disagreement over the Planning Commission, 
Mathai complained that he was not getting the necessary co- 
operation from the Prime Minister and other colleagues in en- 
forcing economy in expenditure. The Standing Finance Com- 
mittee was the most effective safeguard against extravagance in 
expenditure and its approval was necessary for new proposals 
for expenditure even though they had been provided for in the 
budget. But he found there was a general tendency among min- 
isters to disregard (he authority of the Standing Finance Com- 
mittee, some of the greatest offenders in this respect being the 
ministers working under the immediate control of the Prime 
Minister. 

For example, the Standing Finance Committee had agreed to 
the proposal that India’s High Commissioner in the United 
Kin^om should also act as the High Commissioner for Ireland, 
but no expenditure should be incurred for this purpose except 
his travelling expenses. But the then High Commissioner in the 
United Kingdom, V. K. Krishna Menon did not agree. So the 
matter was referred to the Cabinet, which decided that the 
Indian Embassy at Dublin should be provided with a building 
77 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

and staff. Mathai felt that when departures of this kind were 
approved by the P^e Minister, they had a demoralizing effect 
on other departments and caused no small embarrassment to the 
Finance Minister. 

Another important point on which Mathai had differences 
vnth Nehru was the Indo-PaWstan Pact ever which Shyama 
Prasad Mukherjee and K. C Neogy had resigned in April 1950. 
Matthai had entertained grave misgivings about the pact; never- 
theless, he agreed to give it a fair trial; and in the statement on 
his resignation he emphasized that ‘under the guise of appease- 
ment it was extremely important that we should be careful not 
to barter away with >'ital national interests.' 

LAW PORTFOLIO— AN EMPTY SOAP BOX GOOD 
ONLY FOR OLD LAWYERS TO PLAY WITH 

Ambedkai’s resignation from the Cabinet was unique in many 
respects. Although the immediate cause was the delay in passing 
the Hindu Code Bill, he had strong differences with the Cabinet 
on other domestic matters as well as of India's foreign policy. In 
the statement on his resignation be vigorously atta^ed the Gov- 
errunent for delaying the passage of the Hindu Code Bill, for 
pursuing a policy of discrimination against the untoudiables, for 
adopting a policy 0! iriendship ^vith China, for alienating 
friendly countries in the world, and Bnally, for the manner in 
which Nehru was conducting himself as Prime Minister in utter 
disregard of well-established Cabinet principles. Ambedkar, in 
fact, walked out of the Lok Sabha on October 11, 19J1 as a 
protest against the Speaker’s refusal to pennit him to make a 
statement on his resignation at the time he wanted. 

As in the case of Shanmukham Chetty, the appointment of 
Ambedkar to the Cabinet came as a surprise both to himself and 
to the country. He had served for some time as a member of the 
Viceroy’s Executive Coundl under British rule and had been a 
consistent aitic of the Congress. He was not, however, happy 
with the Law portfolio given to him by Nehru because he knew, 
from his experience as a member of the Viceroy’s Executive 
Coundl, that it was administratively of no importance, and that 
it gave him no opportunity to shape the Government’s policy. 



REMARKABLE RESIGNATIONS 

He described U as ‘an empty soap box good only for oJd lawyers 
to play with/ He therefore told the Prime Minister that in addi* 
tion to Law he would like to have some administrative portfolio. 
Nehru, it appeared, agreed to consider his request favourably, 
but nothing was done in this direction during the four years he 
remained in the Cabinet, ‘Many ministers,' complained Ambed- 
kar in the statement on his resignation, ‘have been given two or 
three portfolios so that they have been overburdened. Others like 
me have been wanting more work. 1 have not been considered 
even for holding a portfolio temporarily when a minister-in- 
charge has gone abroad for a few days.' 

‘It is diiFicult to understand/ added Ambedkar, ‘the principle 
underl)ing the distribution of government work among min- 
isters, which the Prime Minister follows. Is it capacity? Is it 
trust? Is it friendship? Is it pliability? I was not even appointed 
to be a member of the main committees of the Cabinet such as 
the Foreign Affairs Committee or the Defence Committee/ 

Among his other grievances was the treatment meted out to 
the Scheduled castes for whose uplift he had laboured hard for 
many years. He still found ‘the same old tyranny, the same old 
oppression, the same old discrimination which existed before/ 
In contrast, the Nfuslims were we!! looked after and the Prime 
Minister’s ‘whole time and attention’ was devoted to their 
protection. 

In regard to foreign policy, Ambedkar felt that it lacked 
realism because it had left India practically friendless in the 
world. He expressed his ‘deep dissatisfaction’ about India’s atti- 
tude to Pakistan. The condition of Indians in East Bengal was 
becoming intolerable but ‘we have been staking our all on the 
Kashmir issue.’ He was of ofHnion that the right solution to 
Kashmir was to partition it. 

But the matter which actually led to his resignation was the 
treatment accorded to the Hindu Code Bill. Its passage had been 
delayed by a] 3 Cut four years and the Cabinet ultimately decided 
that it should be got through in the winter session of Parliament 
in 1951. But subsequently the Prime Minister suggested that as 
adequate time might not be available for Parliament to consider 
the entire Bill, the marriage and divorce part of it might be 
enacted into law at that sesrioiu However, after a few days' 

' 79 



CABIKET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

discussion, the Prime Minister decided to drop the whole Bill 
including the marriage and divorce portion. This,’ said Ambed- 
kar, ‘came to me as a great shock — a bolt from the blue. I was 
stunned and could not say anything. I was not prepared for the 
dropping of the Bill because others more powerful in the Cabinet 
wanted precedence for their Bills.* Ambcdkar strongly criticized 
the conduct of the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs for his un- 
helpful attitude and dilatory tactics, and described him as ‘the 
deadliest opponent of the Code.' 

LABOl/R MrWrSTRT ALMOST SUPERFLUOUS 

Another important resignation on policy matters was that of 
V. V. Giti in February 1954. A prominent labour leader, he 
joined the Union Cabinet as Kfinister for Labour in May 1952. 
But he soon found that he could not see eye to eye with his 
colleagues on major Issues. The first occasion when he met with 
serious opposition was in connection with the Industrial Rela- 
tions Bill. The Ministers of Finance. Defence and Railways felt 
that the industrial establishments under them should be excluded 
from the purview of this Bill. Giti did not agree. Although the 
intervention and tactful handling of the situation by the Prime 
Minister brought about a compromise, Giri did not feel happy. 
He found that there 'was a growing feeling among the employing 
ministries that each could have its own way and its own policy, 
thus rendering the Labour Ministry almost superfluous in 
shaping Government’s policy in this l«half.' 

But the real cause for his resignation was the action of the 
Cabinet in modifying the Bank Award i9y4 in such a way as to 
affect adversely the interests of bank employees. He felt strongly 
that the awards of tribunals should not be set aside by executive 
action except on rare occasions and for very weighty reasons. ‘I 
am of the opinion,’ he wiote to the Prime Minister on August yo, 
1954 

‘that the Central Government should not have set aside the 
award in the manner it has done when it was the outcome of six 
years of careful consideration by three tribunals of the highest 
status. I hold the view that the sanctity of judicial awards must 
80 



REMARKABLE RESIGNATIONS 

be honoured and respected In sjHte of the provision in the law 
permitting the contrarj*, and It is my firm conviction that Gov- 
ernment should not exercise the legal power vested in it and 
unless and until it Is established that the award in question, when 
enforced, will have consequences so grave as to upset the 
economy and stability of the country.' 

He suggested that since the life of the award was only for one 
year, it should be accepted and enforced, and in the meantime, 
the Government should appoint a high-power commission to 
study carefully the full implications of the an’ard. But the 
Cabinet did not agree. Giri, therefore, tendered his resignation. 

FINANCE MINISTER’S RESIGNATION HAD 
NOTHING TO DO WITH FINANCE 

The resignation of Chintaman Oesbisukh had many unusual 
aspects. While his predecessors In the Finance Ministry had 
resigned for reasons connected with their portfolios, Deshmukh 
left the Cabinet on account of differences with the Prime Min- 
ister over matters which had nothing to do with finance. The 
main cause of his resignation was the decision of the Cabinet to 
keep Bombay as a centrally administered city for a period of five 
years. 

Like Shanmukham Chetty, Deshmukh also came into the 
Cabinet with an expert knowledge of finance. A distinguished 
member of the Indian Civi] Service, he bad held important posts 
under the British Government. He was also connected with the 
Reserve Bank for about ten years, first as a liaison officer and 
then as Governor. After his retirement from the Bank early in 
ip49 Deshmukh acted for some time as India’s Financial Repre- 
sentative both in Europe and in America and as Governor for 
India on the International Monetary fund and the World Bank. 
He also accompanied Nehru as financial adviser on some of his 
European tours. In May 1950 on the resignation of John Mathai, 
he joined the Cabinet as Tinatitx Minister after 'repeated 
requests’ by Nehru. But in accepting the post, he warned the 
Prime Minister that he (Deshmukh) was 'apt to prove difflctJt 
where principles were involved' and that he would have to resign 
81 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

if there was a major disagreement. ‘In that event/ Nehru told 
him, 'it would not be a case of yotir walking out alone/ 

During his tenure as Finance Minister, Deshmukh had some* 
times differences with his colleagues in the Cabinet over certain 
financial matters but these, not being of a major nature, were 
settled by mutual adjustment. What actually led to his resigna- 
tion was the decision of the Government regarding the status of 
Bombay city and the manner In which it was arrived at. 

The people of Maharashtra had strongly opposed the recom- 
mendation of the States Reorganization Commission to form a 
bilingual Bombay consisting of the whole of Maharashtra, in- 
cluding Bombay city, and Gujarat. The Government then 
announced their decision to keep Bombay city under Central 
administration. The people of Maharashtra did not agree and 
riots took place In Bombay towards the end of 1955 and the 
beginnlDg of 1956 when, as a result of police firing, eighty Averc 
killed and 4;o lojuied. Deshmukh pressed for a judicial enquiry 
into the Bombay firing but this was not conceded. In the mean- 
time in June I9;6, Nehru declared at a public meeting in Bom- 
bay that Bombay dty would be administered by the Centre for a 
five-year period, and thereafter a final decision would be taken in 
a calmer atmosphere. 

Deshmukh objected to the decision. His dew had been that if 
the bigger bilingual Bombay State was not possible, there should 
be a separate Gujarat State and a separate Maharashtra State 
including the city of Bombay. He felt that the separation of 
Bombay dty from Maharashtra would be a ‘grave economic and 
political blunder, besides being unjust to Maharashtra.’ He was 
particularly hurt by the manner in which the Prime Minister 
announced the decision without consulting the Cabinet. 

As he said in the tok Sabha In the statement on his resigna- 
tion, 

‘there was no consideration of the proposal in the Cabinet or 
even by circulation. There was no individual consultation with 
members of the Cabinet known to be spedally interested, as for 
instance, myself. There is no record even of a meeting of the com- 
mittee of the Cabinet, and to this day no authoritative text of 
the so-called decision is ayailahle to the members of the Cabinet. 

8a 



REMARKABLE RESIGNATIONS 


This instance is typical of the cavalier and unconstitutional 
manner in which dedsions have been taken and announced on 
behalf of the Cabinet by certain unauthorized members of the 
Cabinet, including the Prime Miruster, in matters concerning the 
re-organization of States.' 

Deshmukh’s statement caused some embarrassment to Nehru 
because a public reference had been made to the proceedings of 
the Cabinet. The Prime Minister denied in the lok Sabba that 
the Cabinet had been kept in the dark about the various aspects 
of the Bombay issue. He said that the account given by Desh- 
raukh was not quite correct in all particulars and that it was 
likely to give a wrong impresrion of what bad actually happened. 
He pointed out that the matter was discussed in the Cabinet on 
many occasions and when a special committee was formed, the 
Cabinet was kept informed of its woiL The Prime Minister 
added that Deshmukh by making his statement bad bees unjust 
to the several respected and senior colleagues of the Cabinet. 
Replying to the charge that the Prime Minister had been maldng 
statements without consulting the Cabinet, Nehru said, 

T am the Prime Minister of India. I know something of demo- 
cratic procedure, about the Prime Minister's duties, the Constitu- 
tion of India and the Constitution of Britain. The Prime Minister 
Is the lynch-pin of the Government and he can make any state- 
ment on behalf of the Government.' 


FINANCE MINISTER CAN FUNCTION ONLY FROM 
POSITION OP STRENGTH 

T. T. Krishnamachari was the fourth Finance Minister to quit 
the Cabinet. As a successful businessman and as a legislator first 
in Madras and later in the CentK. he had won a reputation for 
hard work and deep knowledge of economic problems.* He joined 
the Union Cabinet in May 1952 as Minister for Commerce and 
Industry. But he submitted his resignation in June 1956 as a 
protest against the Cabinet's dedsion to reject Birla’s proposal 

' After he reiomej the Czbiaet in 1961 Ktuhnamzchan tionateif hi$ entiie 
private Lbrary, contUung of ahoot 5«oa book*, to a college in Madm. 

8j 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

to set up a steel plant in the private sector. Krishnamachari felt 
that in view of the acute shortage of capital and technical skill in 
the country, it would be wrong to prevent the private sector 
from erecting a steel plant merely on ideological grounds. But 
Nehru, who had just then returned from a tour of China, greatly 
impressed by her achievements, did not agree. He also did not 
accept Krishnamachari’s suggestion to wind up the Production 
Ministry. Krishnamachari, therefore, tendered his resignation, 
but on the Prime Minister's persuasion, consented to continue in 
the Cabinet. He was then made Minister for Iron and Steel. The 
Ministry of Production was bifurat^ and it was made respon- 
sible orJy for projects in the public sector, those in the private 
sector being left to the charge of the Ministry of Commerce and 
Industry, 

Krishnamachari took over the Rnance portfolio in July 195^ 
on the resignation of Deshmukh; and in this capacity he dis- 
played considerable vigour and originality. In his budget presen- 
ted in May 1957 he introduced three entirely new taxes — the 
wealth tax, the expenditure tax and the gift tax. Although the 
taxes proved unpopular with the business community, he was 
praised for his boldness in tapping new resources of revenue. But 
Krishnamachari could not remain long in the Finance Ministry 
because of the manner in which he handled the Mundhra Affair. 

Haridas Mundhra, a young and ambitious businessman of 
Calcutta, had built up a vast industrial empire. His meteoric rise 
into eminence evoked admiration and jealousy, and suspicions 
were aroused about the methods adopted by him to acquire con- 
trol over giant companies in quick succession. In 1956 the Life 
Insurance Corporation of India, a nationalized body under the 
control of the Knance Ministry, bought shares worth several 
lakhs of rupees in certain concerns of Mundhra. The transaction 
did not attract public attention for some time. But in December 
1957 it was raised in the Lok Sabha, and several members per- 
sisted in holding an independent and impartial enquiry into the 
whole matter. It was argued that the investment of such large 
sums of public money in companies whose financial condition 
and prospects were far from satisfactory, was wholly unjustified. 
It was suggested that the shares were purchased by the Life 
Insurance Corporation with a view to helping the speculative 

84 



REKARKABtE RESICNATroNS 

activities of Mundhra. Allegations of corruption were also made. 
The Finance Minister’s attempt to justify the investment on the 
ground that it was needed to support sentiment in the Calcutta 
Stock Exchange was considered unconvincing. Public indignation 
was aroused and so the Government agreed to conduct a judirial 
enquir)' into the transaction. 

M. C. Chagla, Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, con- 
ducted the enquiry and his verdict svent against Krishnamachari. 
There was, of course, no charge of corruption against him but he 
was criticized for an error of judgment since as Finance Minister 
theli/e Insurance Corpoation was under his jarisSctioi}. Chagh 
held that it was improbable that H. M. Patel, the Principal 
Secretary to the Finance Ministry, would have put through an 
unusual deal of this character without ministerial concurrence. 
The fact that the transaction was not repudiated by the minister 
seemed to indicate the latter's prior concunencc or subsequent 
acquiescence. Chagla said, *The Minister must take full respon- 
sibility for (he acts of his subordinates. He cannot be permitted 
to say (hat his subordinates did not reflect his policy or acted 
conttaty to his wishes or directions.' 

In a lengthy statement in the LokSabha on February i8, 1958, 
Krishnamachari explained (he background to the L.I.C.’s deal 
with the Mundhra concerns, and pointed out that he had been 
unaware of its details for a long time until the matter was raised 
in Parliament. He suggested (hat something must have gone 
Wrong in the Fiindpal Secretary's appreciation of the Govern- 
ment’s policy. As regards the constitutional position, Krish- 
namachari recalled that some years earlier certain senior Gvil 
Servants attached to the Food Ministry had been actually prose- 
cuted for corruption, but the Minister of Food was not called 
upon to submit his resignation. Krishnamachari felt that in his 
own case resignation was not called for; nevertheless, he wanted 
to go because he thought he would not be able to function 
effectively in the pievaihng drcumstances. ‘A Finance Minister,’ 
he said, ‘can function adequately only from a position of strength 
and not from one of weakness.'* 

‘ T. T. Kruhsamjcbaji ag2ht became Kaaace Mjaister in Aujiut >96^ but 
bad to resign in Deconber 196) becawe tie could not hiiutioa from a position 
of strength. This is explained in chapter XL 

85 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 
NOT EVEN NEHRU COULD SAVE HIM 
The remaikable thing about V. K. Krishna Menon’s resignation 
was that for the first time a senior minister was compelled to 
quit in spite of the vigorous and persistent efforts made by the 
Prime Minister to retain him in the Cabinet. 

A dose friend and colleague of Nehru for many years, Menon 
had worked as Secretary of the India League in London before 
the attainment of independence. Nehru chose him as India's 
first High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, a post which 
he held for about five years (1947-52). But his work in this 
capadty came in for considerable criticism for his failure to 
exerdse proper vigilance in financial matters. The High Commis- 
sioner is responsible for the purchase of stores on behalf of India 
and Menon appeared to have shown slackness on certain occa- 
dons particularly in connection with the purchase of jeeps for 
the Indian Army. As a result, the Government of India was put 
to heavy loss. Nehru wanted to bring Menon into the Cabinet 
after the latter had relinquished his assignment in London. But 
the Prime Minister had to wait until public opinion, which had 
been critical of Menon's record as High Commissioner, became 
favourable. Moreover, not all of Nehru’s colleagues were enthu- 
siastic about his proposal to bring Menon into the Cabinet. Some 
of them feared that Menon. with his great inDuence over the 
Prime Minister, would be able to dominate the Cabinet — a pros- 
pect which they did not like in view of his well-known leanings 
to the Left. This, for instance, is what Maulana Abul Kalam 
Azad says in his autobiography about Menon: 

‘Krishna Menon professed great admiration for fawaharlal and 
I knew Jawaharlal often listened to his advice. I did not feel 
happy about this, as I felt that Krishna Menon often gave him 
wrong advice. Sardar Patel and I did not always see eye to eye 
but we were agreed in our judgment about him.’ 

Menon joined the Calnnct as Minister without Portfolio. 
When about a year later he took over Defence, many were 
surprised that a key portfolio had been given to one who was 
reported to hold pro-Communist views. But Nehru had full con- 
fidence in him and gave him a free hand in organizing the vital 



REMARKABtE RESICNATJOMS 

department. Menon did some good work especially in stepping 
up the production of military equipment which was mostly 
being imported from abroad. But at the same time, he was 
accused by his opponents of perpetuating waste and extravagance 
in the Defence Ministry and, what was more serious, of creating 
cliques in the higher ranks of the Services. Allegations were 
made both in Parliament and outside that Menon was not follow- 
ing the usual procedure in regard to appointments and promo- 
tions, that many senior officers with creditable records had been 
superseded by juniors, and that the morale of the military had 
been adversely affected. The reports of the Auditor-General 
issued periodically also gave instances of waste in the Defence 
Ministry involving huge sums of money. Meanwhile, reports 
used to appear from time to time about China's aggressive inten- 
tions towards India, but Menon discounted them saying that 
Pakistan was the only power against which India had to guard 
herself. 

Menon’s work as Defence Minister was severely attacked 
in Parliament. Acharya Kripalaai in a marathon speech on 
April n, 1961 condemned him for his failure to strengthen the 
drtence forces of the country, for creating schisms in the Services, 
and for squandering public money on wasteful schemes. He con- 
cluded his speech thus: 

'1 charge lum with having created cliques in the Army. 1 charge 
him with having lowered the morale of our Armed forces; I 
charge him with having wasted the money of a poor and starving 
nation. 1 charge him with the neglect of the defence of the 
country against the aggression of Communist China. And in the 
international sphere, 1 charge him with having lent his support 
to the totalitarian and dictatorial regimes against the will of the 
people to freedom. May I, sir, at this critical moment appeal to 
Congressmen, who were not ahaid of the British bullets and 
bayonets, to place the good of the nation above (he supposed 
good of the party? I would remind how the Conservatives of 
England acted during the last war. They obliged even their Prime 
Minister Chamberlain to resign.' 

Nehru, of course, strongly defended Menon. In fact, the more 

87 



CABIHET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

vehemently the latter was cridoKd, the more passionately he 
was supported by the Prime Minister. The Communist Party 
abo stood by Menon. The opposition parties, excluding the 
communbts, tried their best to defeat him in the election to the 
Lok Sabha from the North Bombay constituency in February 
1962; but he won by a majority of more than one lakh votes over 
his rival Kripalani. Menon was then at the height of hb power. 

But in October 1961, when the Chinese launched their 
treacherous attack on In^, out army was found wanting. It 
suffered a series of reverses and was easily routed by the Chinese. 
The whole country became Indignant at the fact that a neigh- 
bour, believed to be a friendly power, had chosen to invade India, 
and that the Indian army was unable to give a good account of 
itself. It was alleged that although the Indian jawans were 
fighters of great ability, they were not properly equipped with 
weapons. Nor were they supplied even with adequate winter 
clotning and shoes. Menon naturally bearoe the target of criti- 
cism, and public opinion demanded hb dismissal. The agitation 
for his removal beame so persbtent tbat Nehru had to yield by 
taking over the Defence Portfolio himself and by making Menon 
responsible only for defence production. But the country was 
not to be satisfied with anything less than Menon's dismbsal. 
Nehru explained that the responsibility for the army’s reverses 
was not that of Menon alone but that of the entbe Cabinet and, 
therefore, there was no point in asking for the removal of the 
Defence Minister, But such explanations, although constitution- 
ally conect, did not convince the critics. They were prepared to 
forgive Nehru but insuted on Menon's quitting the Cabinet; and 
curiously, it was the Congress Parliamentary Party that most 
vigorously pleaded for hb removal. To what extent Menon had 
lost the confidence of hb own Party will be evident from the 
following account of the meeUng of the Executive Council of 
the Congress Parliamentary Party, given by the well-known 
American magazine Time : 

‘On November 7th, Nehru attended an all-day meeting of the 
Executive Committee of the Parliamentary Congress Party and 
made a fervent plea for Mensm -whose intellect, he said, -was 
needed in the erbb. As a participant recalls it, ten denched fists 



REMARKABLE RESIGNATIONS 

banged down on the table, a chorus of voices shouted, "No." 
Nehru was dumbfounded. It was he who was used to banging 
tables and making peremptory refusals. Taking a different track, 
he accurately said that he was as much at fault as Menon and 
vaguely threatened to resign. Always before, such a threat had 
been sufficient to make the opposition crumble with piteous cries 
of "Panditji, don’t leave us alone I " This time, one of the leaders 
said: ‘Tf you continue to follow Menon’s policies, we are pre- 
pared to contemplate that possibility." Nehru was beaten and 
Menon thrown out of the Gibinet.' 

In his letter of resignation dated November 7, 1962, Menon 
observed 

‘...lam painfully aware of the fact that not only the oppo- 
nents of our policy and party but even perhaps an appreriaWe 
number of our party members, some leaders among them, have 
proclaimed or implied their lad; of faith in me and in the defence 
organization under my stewardship. These views may not and 
in fact do not, represent the brdk of our party or the people. 
Nevertheless, in my humble submission, the reservations amid 
the crisis that are there, are a weak link in our national and 
party unity.’ 

Menon, therefore, submitted his resignation from the Cabinet 
'in the belief that it may be a small contribution to the war 
effort.’ Nehru while rcconimending the resignation to the Presi- 
dent expressed his ‘warm appreciation of the fine work’ Menon 
had done in the Defence Ministry. Mcnon’s resignation was 
followed by that of General P. N. Thapar, Chief of the Army 
Staff, on grounds of health. 

UNUSUAL DEAL BETWEEN MINISTER AND 
MINE-OWNER 

The redgnation of K. D. Malaviya in 1965 was the first instance 
when a Cabinet Minister had to quit on charges of corruption. 
Malaviya joined the Council of Miidsters as Deputy Minister of 
Natural Resources and Scientific Research in 1954. In 1957 he 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

was promoted as Minister of Sute for Mines and Oil in which 
capacity he served for five years. In April 1961 he became a 
Cabinet Minister in charge of the same subjects. He displayed 
some vigour and initiative in developing the indigenous oil in- 
dustry. India’s requirements of petroleum were inaeasing 
rapidly on account of her intensive industrialization but until a 
few years ago, no serious and systematic efforts had been made 
to develop the country's oil resources and it had to depend 
heavily on imports. Today, India has made enormous progress 
on the road to self-sufficiency In petroleum products. Malaviya's 
policy was aitidsed because ot its excessive bias in favour 
of the public sector. Progress in developing the oil industry, it 
was thought, could have been faster and more substantial if the 
oil companies in the private sector had not been fettered on 
ideologial grounds. 

Early in 1963 allegations were made both in Parliament and 
outside that Malaviya had accepted money from Serajuddin, a 
leading mine-owner and exporter of Calcutta, in return for 
certain concession from his ministry. Malaviya admitted having 
received Ks. 10,000/* from Serajuddio but he maintained that he 
took it for politial. not personal, purposes, that is, for meeting 
the expenses of a Congress candidate who sought election to the 
UJ. Legislative Assembly. Malaviya emphaticaUy denied that he 
had shown any favour to Serajuddin and he asserted that any 
concession that had been given was strictly in accordance with 
the rules framed under the Government’s mineral policy. But 
this explanation did not convince Parliament and so Nehru 
referred the case for enquiry to Justice S. K. Das of the Supreme 
Court. 

Unfortunately neither Parliament nor the public were taken 
into confidence in the matter of the enquiry. The findings of 
Justice Das were not made public because he had insisted, before 
he agreed to take up the enquiry, that they should not be pub- 
lished. All that the country was told was that out of the six 
allegations that were referred to Justice Das, two had gone 
against Malaviya and the rest in his favour. But no information 
was given as to what exactly was the nature of the allegations 
referred to Justice Das and which of them had gone against 
Malaviya. Nehru said in the Lok Sabha in August 1963 that 
90 



REMARKABLE RESIGKATIONS 


Justice Das had come to 'prima facie conclusions’ on the basis of 
the evidence before him and not to firm conclusions as a result 
of a tegular trial. These ‘prima facie conclusions’ influenced the 
Prime Minister in accepting Malaviya's resignation. In doing so, 
Nehru said that he was following chose high principles of parlia- 
mentary government by which the office of a Minister was 
governed. He added, however, that be was not personally con- 
vinced that Malaviya had done anything which cast a reflection 
on his impartiality and integrity. 

The Prime Minister’s statement and his refusal to disclose the 
findings of Justice Das created confusion. Many wondered why 
Nehru accepted the resignation if he was thoroughly convinced 
of Malaviya's innocence. 

Malaviya in his statement in the lok Sabba on August 17, 
1963 said that the method of enquiry had greatly han^capped 
hhn. It was of an informal and seaet nature. The fudge did not 
permit him to have the benefit of legal counsel during the exam- 
ination of the witnesses. Some witnesses with direct knowledge 
of the facts were not even called. Further, the report of the judge 
was not to be published or discussed even in parliament but only 
used as personal advice to the Prime Minister. 

'In these circumstances,’ added Malaviya, 'the House will, 1 
hope, appreciate the situation In which I am placed and permit 
me to say for the present that my conscience is clear, I can only 
assert my innocence and impartiality. There can be no question 
of my favouring anyone in any instance whatever.' 

Malaviya's statement created the imprenion that he should 
have been given a fuller opportunity to defend himself. At the 
same time, many expressed surprise at the fact that Malaviya 
himself did not ask for such an opportunity. 

RESIGNATIONS UNDER THE KAMARAJ PLAN HAD 
NOTHING TO DO WITH POLICT 
We shall now deal with an entirely diSerent type of resignations 
that took place in August 1963 under what is known as the 
Kamraj Plan. As we have already pointed out In chapter V the 
Idea behind the Plan was that some senior leaders of the Congress 
should quit office and devote themwlvcs to party work. Nehru 
9 * 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


accordingly accepted the resignation of Morarji Desai, the 
Finance Minister, S. K. Patil, the Minister for Food and Agricul- 
ture, Lai Bahadur Shastri, the Minister for Home Affairs, Jagjivan 
Ram, the Minister for Communications, Shrimall, Minister for 
Education, and Gopala Reddy, the Minister for Information and 
Broadcasting. Although these ministers were apparently relieved 
for doing party work, it was widely believed that Nehru availed 
himself of the opportunity of the Kamaraj Plan to get rid of 
inconvenient or incompetent coUeagues whom he could not 
remove in the normal way. Thus S. K. Patil was dropped, it was 
believed, because he had failed to improve the food situation and 
he was also unwilling to change over to another portfolio as 
desired by the Prime Minister. Morarji Desai had become unpop- 
ular because of gold control and the compulsory desposit scheme. 
Moreover, both Patil and Desai had incurred the wrath of the 
communists who had strongly and specifically urged for their 
dismissal from the Cabinet during the debate on the no<onfi.* 
dence motion in August 196}. The communists’ argument was 
that with the exit earlier of Krishna Menon and Malaviya, the 
ideological balance in the Cabinet bad been gravely disturbed and 
that so long as Patil and Desai remained in power, the Cabinet 
would be heavily dominated by the Right. Such views were also 
expreued by Pravda, the Soviet ne^vspape^, and Nehru, always 
sensitive to criticism from Moscow, rcadOy agreed to drop his 
two most controversial coUeagues. 

The acceptance of the resignation of the other ministers was 
also believed to be due to specific reasons. Gopala Reddy's resig- 
nation was connected with the "Voice of America’ deal which 
had caused considerable embarrassment to Nehru. Shrimall was 
supposed to have been relieved because he had done nothing 
remarkable as Minuter for Education, fagjivan Ram’s going 
aused little surprise ance be had been a Cabinet Minister con- 
tinuously for sixteen years. As regards Lai Bahadur Shastri it 
thought that Nehru agreed to drop him because the Prime 
Minister wk anxious to keep up an appearance of impartiality in 
acCTpting these resignations and, moreover, he wanted him to 
lake over the Congress Preadency which was assuming consid- 
erable importance. 

Nehru, of course, denied that the resignations were due to 
9 » 



REMARKABLE RESIGNATIONS 

policy difference or because of his desire to get rid of certain 
colleagues for personal or ideological reasons.’ His explanation 
was that the Kamaraj Plan would make an impact on the public 
only if a number of senior ministers gave up ofHce and devoted 
themselves to party work. He told the Lok Sabba on August 30, 
1963: 

‘Rather unusual drnimstance led to the resignation of some of 
our seniormost and most respected members of the House and of 
the Government ... It is with regret that I rcconiniend to the 
President that these resignations be accepted. In our Government 
it will make a big difference without senior and experienced 
members whose advice counted so much. I would only add that 
this has nothing to do with any questions of rolicy that usually 
lead to resignations. The reasons were entirely different. How- 
ever. I am glad that although th^ have resigned from the 
Cabinet they will continue as members 0/ this House and we 
shall continue to have the advantage of their advice and co-opera- 
tion.' 

‘ Couldtr, in this context Attlee's pnndple in selecting his Cabinet col- 
leaguei fsu] mistake', he told ba biographer, 'is to select only people 
you think ue doole yes-men. You must put in people who ate ikely to be 
awkwaid 1 did.' 



CHAPTER Vri 


RELATIONS 

WITH RASHTRAPATHI' 


The office of the Indian Prendent is a nniquc institution. His 
status and functions are neither like those of the British Monarch 
nor of the American President although the Indian Constitution 
incorporates important features from the Constitutions of both 
these countries. In order to understand his porition concctly, it 
is necessary to recall the badcground in which the Constitution 
of India was framed in 1946-9. 

Having provided for a quasi*fedcral structure, the fathers of 
the Constitution were anxious to ensure that the Head of the 
State was not an ornamental figure nor, at the same time, was he 
made as powerful as the American President. As K. M. Munshi. 
who played a prominent part in framing the Constitution, says. 

The provisions were the outcome of a definite decision that the 
President should not be the aeature of the Parliament nor the 
nominee of the patty in power at the centre, nor a figurehead as 
the President of the French Constitution of iSyy, but an indepen- 
dent organ of the State representing the whole Union and 
exercising independent powers.’ 

MODE OF ELECTION 

The Indian President is chosen by indirect election. The Con- 
stituent Assembly decided against direct election because it was 
considered unnecessary since under the parliamentary system of 
government, the real power would vest in the Cabinet and not 
in the President. Moreover, direct election would be a costly and 
cumbrous procedure, involving the exerdse of franchise by a vast 

' Rashtrapithi, a Hindi word, meant Fresidoit of the Indian Republic. 

94 



RELATIONS VITH RASHTRAPATHI 


electorate of over 500 million people. So the President is elected 
by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both 
Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the legislative 
assemblies of the States. The election U held in accordance with 
the system of proportional representation by means of the single 
tranrferable vote, the voting being done by secret ballot. A can- 
didate for election as President should be an Indian citizen, 
should have completed thirty-five years of age, be qualified for 
election as a member of the Lok Sabha,’ and shall not hold any 
office for profit. On entering upon his office, he has to take a 
solemn oath affirming that: 1 will faithfully execute the office 
of the Prerident ... to the best of my ability, preserve, protect 
and defend the Constitution and the law and that I will devote 
myself to the ser>tice and well-bdng of the people of India.' The 
President is elected for a term of five years but he is eligible for 
re-election. There are two ways by which he may quit office 
within the term of five years; by tendering his resignation in 
writing addressed to the Vice-Pretideot of India or by removal by 
impea^ment for violating (be Constitution. 


POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT 
The Prerident's powers fall broadly into three categories; 
executive, legislative, and judidaL 

Under Artide 53 of the Constitution, the executive powers of 
the Union are vested in the Fretident and shall be exercised by 
him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in 
accordance with the Constitution. He has a Council of hiinisters 
to ‘aid and advise’ him in the exerdse of his /unctions. He 
appoints the Prime Minister and, on the latter's advice, the other 
ministers. The ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of 
the President,* and he administers the oath of office and of 
secrecy. 

' But the Fmldent thatl not be a member of dtber House of ParUament or 
o( any State lesUIatuie. 

* In practice, as sre base seen easber, the diolce of ministers if soldy at the 
discreOon of the Pilme MiiUster. The Fresdent if bound to appoint as Prime 
Minister the leader of the maionty Party in tbe Lok Sabha and accept his 
nonunees as minisreis. 


95 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


Aitide 77 lays down that 

‘all executive action of the Government of India shall be ex- 
pressed to be taken in the name of the President, that all 
and other instruments made and executed in the name of the 
President shall be authenticated in such manner as may be s^d- 
fied in rules to be made by the President and the validity of an 
order or instrument which is so authenticated shall not be called 
in question on the ground that it is not an order or instrument 
made or executed by the President' 

The Constitution empowers the President to make rules for the 
more convenient transaction of the Government of India and for 
the allocation of business among minis ters. It also enjoins upon 
the Prime Minister to 

‘communicate to the President all dedsions of the Council of 
Ministers relating to the administration of the affairs of the 
Union and proposals for legislation; to furnish such infonnation 
relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and 
propos^ for legislation as the President may call for: and if the 
President so requires, to submit for the consideration of the 
Council of Ministers any matter on which a decision has been 
taken by a Minister but which has not been considered by the 
Council.' 

The President also appoints, on the advice of the Cabinet, the 
Attorney-General of the Union, the ComptroUer and Auditor- 
General, the judges of the Supreme Court' and High Courts, the 
Chairman and members of the Union Public Service Commission 
and the State Governors. He also appoints the Union Public 
Service Commission, the Chief Election Commissioner, the 
Finance Commission, a Commission to enquire into the adminis- 
tration of scheduled areas, a Commission to study the condition 
of the backward dasses, and so on. 

The legislative powers of the President are the following: he 
may summon the Houses or other House to meet at such time 
and place as he thinks fit; he may prorogue the House and 

•While appointing judges of the Supreme Court, the President has to con- 
sult also the Chief justice of the Supreme Court. 

96 



RELATIONS ^ITH RASHTRAPATHI 

dissolve the House of the people. He may addtess either ^me of 
Pailiameut or both Houses together. He may send “ 

either House of Parliament whether with r^ect to “ ^ P'n“^ 
in Paihament or otherwUe. His assent w tecKary for 
passed by Parliament to become law. He mV elso teturn , 
which is not a money bill, to the House with his 
reconsideration; and if the hill is again passed with 0 ^thout 
the suggested amendments, the President has no P°jet ‘o m h 
hoH Itoassent. The President also has the Power to dis^ow bi^ 
passed by a State Legislature and reserved for ” J 

Ly send them hack to the Governor for reconsideration by the 

’'^UeTr'e^ident shaU cause to be laid, in respect of "'V fi™- 

dal year, the annual financial statement shoj™g sepan d^*^ 

sums required to meet expenditure ^ctibe y 

as exnendituie charged upon the Consohdated Fund ot Intua, 
and to sums required to iSet »*“ “u« 

made from the Consohdated Fund. The President >bt“ 
certain reports to be placed before Parhament, « the repor 
of to Auditor.General concerning the stcounts of to Govern 
ment of India, the report ot to taance Cotnmnsion ttgethe 
with a memorandum explaining the action “b™ 
report of the Union Public Service Comnmion, the re^rt ot 
the Special Officer for Scheduled Castes *" „f the 

the &mmhsiou on backward dawes; and to report of the 

Special Officer for linguistic minorities. - lie is 

The President has the porver to 
satisfied that circumstances enst which render i 
him to take immediate action. Every ^ch or nan 
before both Houses of Parliament and it ^ 

the expiry of six weeks after the "-assOTbly of Parhament, or 
earlier if disapproved by both Houses. The Pr 
withdraw the ordinance. -j rriti- 

The ordinance making power of the ^tesi e a „ p- jjjg 
died by some persons on the gtoimd that it “““*“iustifcd 
soveteignty of Parliament. But thn 

because to President can exeicise this 1”"“ " rwhen Pah?- 
of the Cabinet, and not in his distaetion, and only when Parha 
ment is not in session. 


97 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


The judicial powers of the Fieddent include the right to grant 
pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to 
suspend, remit or commute the sentence on persons comicted by 
court martial and in cases in which the sentence of death has 
been passed. The President also has the power to refer any 
question of public importance to the Supreme Court for its 
opinion. 

Apart from the normal powers of the President described 
above, he has been endowed with certain emergency powers, 
broadly of three categories. The President may issue a proclama- 
tion of emergency when he is $atis6ed that the security of India, 
or any part thereof, has been threatened by war, external 
aggression or internal disorder. Such a prodamation must be laid 
before each House of Parliament. It will cease to operate at the 
expiry of two months unless before that period it has been 
approved by both Houses of Parliament. The effect of the procla- 
mation is that, for all practical purposes during the period of the 
emergency, the State Governments will be under the complete 
control of the Centnl Government. The latter is empowered to 
give directions to any State Govenunent regarding the manner 
in which its executive power is to be exercised; and Parliament 
will have the power Co legislate on subjects in the State List as 
well. The finandal relations between the Centre and the States 
may also be suitably modified if necessary by Presidential order. 
Moreover, so long as the emergency is in force, the right of 
citizens to move the Courts for the enforcement of fundamental 
rights remains suspended. For the first time the President issued 
a proclamation of emergency under Article 35a on October 26, 
1961 when India was invaded by China; and the prodamation 
continues to be in force till the timruf-wiiting. 

The second type of emergency relates to the failure of constitu- 
tional machinery in the States; when the President is satisfied 
that the administration of a State cannot be carried on in accor- 
dance with the Constitution, he may issue a prodamation under 
Aitide 356 by which the Central Government may take over all 
the functions, except judidal, of the State. Such prodamations 
have been issued on four occasions in Kerala in 1956, in 1959. in 
1964, and in 1965; and also once in the Punjab in 1950 and in 
Andhra in 1954. 



nCLATtOHS XriTII flASHTItArATIII 

The Pjrrirffnt it afto emfowtretl unrfer Arlfcic 360 lo Unit a 
ftocliTnation when he It mitfied that the financial stability or 
credit of India or of any part of the Imiiory thereof It threat* 
ened. When such a prociamatlon it in oj^ration, the Central 
Covetnnirni hat the power to htue diretilont to any State to 
obtf r« snitaHc canons of financial propriety, which may include 
a pro>*irion teqnirlnjt the reduction of salaries and allowances of 
all or any eJau of perrent lervinp in connection with the aUalrt 
of the Union. Including judges of the Supreme Court and High 
CoufCt at well at of a State Government. The proclamation may 
also require all monej' Milt or other financial Rilh to he reversed 
for the consfderation of the Prcsfdenf after they are passed b)’ the 
Slate Legislature, 

The Constitution alto vests the supreme command of the 
Defence Forces of the Indian Union In the President, hut he will 
exercise the powers in this respect In accordance with the law. 

PRESIOCNT'S StCRETARIAT 

The Ptesident is assisted by two seaetaries. One Is designated as 
Secretary to the Prerident and the other as Militar)* Se^ctary to 
the President. Each Seactary has his separate wtablishment. The 
ScCTctaty to the President It usually a very senior member of the 
Qvil Scrsice. He provides the liaison betss cen the President and 
the Departments of the Covernment of India. He places before 
the President all papers that require his sanction or instructions, 
and conveys them to the appropriate departments. The Seaetary 
also arranges Interviews s^th the President and looks after the 
President’s correspondence with State Gos-emon as well as with 
the various ron-oflidal or semi-ollicja! organizations with which 
he is connected. 

The main work of the Military Secretary is fo make suitable 
arrangements for all functions that take place In the Rashtra- 
path! Bhawan or the Prime Minister’s House, to draw op the 
tour programme of the President, to allot accommodation In the 
President’s Estate and in the RashtnpathI Bhawan, and to super- 
vise the arrangements In connection with entertainments given 
by the President. Vice-President or the Prime Minister. 

99 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


HOV THE PRESIDENT USES HIS POWERS 


It is thus cleat that the Indian Constitution vests the President* 
with vast powers over vital aspects of the administration. How- 
ever, opinion seems divided among constitutional experts about 
the actual status of the President. Some argue that whatever the 
Constitution may say, in practice, the President can, and should, 
act only in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet in the 
interests of smooth administration. But others hold the view that 
if the President were to act always in accordance with the wishes 
of the Cabinet, it will ultimately result in the destruction of 
democracy. It will be useful to summarize briefly both these 
points of view. 

The exponents of the first school of thought suggest that 
although the Constitution does not specifically lay down that 
the President should act always on the advice of the Cabinet, it 
was expected by the authors of the Constitution that he would 
conduct himselr on the modd of the British monarch so as to 
maintain the sovereignty of the Indian Parliament. If the Presi- 
dent did not do so, it would mean that Parliament would not be 
supreme, for under the Constitution, the actions of the President 
could not be discussed in Parliament. 

It Is interesting to recall that the Constituent Assembly had 
originally intended to incorporate in the Constitution an instru- 
ment of instructions, making it obligatory on the President to 
act always in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet. The 
mstrucrion proposed was as follows: la all matters within the 
Kope of the executive power of the Union, the President shall, 
in the raerdse of the powen confened upon him, be guided by 
me ad^ce of his ministers.’ But subsequently this proposal was 
^pped. B. N. Rau points out in his Indian Constitution in the 
Making that a number of members of the Constituent Assembly 


who u fxofficio the Ouir- 
memben ef both Housej ©f Pwlia- 
»«wd»nee with the system of propor- 

Jjttei'f deith. ToignJtion. or removal until the 
*' VkwPreildent doea not automatically become 
ire"?** H' *«t ** President. 


lOO 



RELATIONS VlTH RASHTRAPATHl 

objected to this proposal being dropped because it was not clear 
how far the conventiom of the British Constitution would be 
binding under the Indian Constitution. But the Law Minister 
categorically assured them that the conventions would be bind- 
ing on parliament. He was specifically asked ; ‘If in any partic- 
ular case the President does cot act upon the advice of his Council 
of Ministers, will that be tantamount to a violation of the Con- 
stitution and will he be liable to impeachment?' To this question 
the Law Minister’s answer Mras: ‘There is not the sbghtest doubt 
about it.’ The Constituent Assembly, on this assurance, agreed 
to omit the clause. 

B. N. Rau also makes the important point that 'acting on 
ministerial advice docs not necessarily mean the immediate 
acceptance of the Ministry’s first thoughts. The President can 
state all his objections to any proimsed course of action and ask 
his ministers in Council, if necessary, to reconsider the matter. 
It Is only in the last resort that he should accept their final 
advice.’ 

Rafeodra Prasad also expressed the view in the Constituent 
Assembly that the President should conduct himself as a consti- 
tutional monarch. He said: 

‘Although there is no specific provision in the Constitution itself 
malting it binding on the President to accept the advice of his 
ministers, it is hoped that the convention, under which in 
England the king always acted on the advice of his ministers, 
would be established in this country also and that the President 
would become a constitutional President in all matters.’ 

But other eminent constitutional experts, including Patanjali 
Sastri, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, have asserted 
that the President is under no obligation to act always on the 
advice of his ministers. The Constitution, they argue, has pro- 
vided for a Council of Ministers to aid and advise the President 
but nowhere is it laid down, as it has been done in the Irish 
Constitution, that he should always be gmded by them. They 
point out that unlike as In Britain, the Indian Constitution pro- 
vides for a quasi-federation where there is a clear demarcation of 
powers between the Centre and the States. Both the Central and 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

State Legislatures participate in the election of the President, who 
has the responsibility to ensure the autonomy of the States 
against encroachment from the Centre. 'If the powers of the 
President ate passed on to the Prime Minister and the President 
becomes a figme-head,’ says K. M. Munshi, ‘the character of the 
Union as a ^asi-federation will be destroyed. The Union will 
become a unitary one and its powers of maintaining the unity of 
the country will also be materially impaired.' 

■^e exponents of this view quote in their support Article 6i 
which provides for impeachment of the President if he violates 
the Constitution. The charge can be initiated by either House of 
Parliament, after giving at least fourteen days' notice in writing, 
signed by no fewer than one fourth of the total number of mem- 
bers of the House, and the resolution should be passed by a 
majority of not less than two-lhirds of the total membership of the 
Ho^e. A charge so preferred by either House of Parliament will 
be investigated by the other House and the President has the 
right to appear and to be represented at such investigation. The 
Fresideot will be removed from office if, as a result of the investi* 
gation, a resolution is passed by a majority of not less than two- 
thirds of the total membership of the House by which the charge 
was investigated, sustaining the charge against him. 

In wes^f this dear provision for Impeachment, it is suggested 
that the Resident has a personal responsibility to preserve and 
protect the Constitution — a responsibility which cannot be 
pa^ed on to the Cabinet. It is, therefore, contended that there is 
not, and cannot be any legal obligation on the President to accept 
the advice of the ministers. Munshi in fact argues that some of 
the President s powen are ‘super-ministerial’ where the Cabinet 
could not be relied upon to advise him’. These indude the 
power to diOTUss a Prime Minister who does not enjoy the leader- 
ship of the Party, to remove a ministry which has lost the confi- 
dence of the Parhament to dissolve the Lok Sabha when it ceases 
to command the ronfidence of the people, and to exerdse the 
in emergency where 
the ministry has faded to defend the country. Munsfc also recalls 
'W hy Nehru In the Consrituent Assembly: 

eK,n3. like 


ioa 



RELATIONS WITH RASHTRAPATHI 


PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTER 

From the strictly constitutional pdnt of view, Munshi's inter- 
pretation seems conect.‘ But what ultimately matters is the 
personality of the President as well as his personal relationship 
’Kdth the Prime Minister. So far, the Constitution has worked 
smoothly because of the cordial relationship between the Presi- 
dent and the Prime Minister and because the same political party, 
namely the Congress, has been in power both at the Centre and 
in the States ever since the Constitution came into force in 
January 1950.* 

India’s &st President was Rajendra Prasad, a veteran Congress- 
man and a dose associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Before the attain- 
ment of freedom, Prasad had served as the Congress President for 
three terms and as a member of the Congress Working Commit- 
tee for a number of years. He was Minister of Food and Agricul- 
ture in the Interim Government of India set up in September 
1946 but resigned the post on being elected President of the 
Corutituent Assembly. His election as President of the Indian 
Republic in January 1950 was opposed by the late Professor K. T. 
Shah, an einlnent economist. But Prasad was elected by 2,896 
votes out of the total of 3,486 votescast. 

Prasad and Nehru bad been intimate colleagues in the Con- 
gress for many decades and both had great respect and affection 
for each other, although their outlook on political and economic 
problems was not always identical. While Nehru favoured radical 

' Tbe following commenb on the PrendenCe renstitutional pontion. njzde 
by Inia'* Supreme Court, ia Kara Jtnvaya w. Sute of Funjab (jpSjX are tign'i- 
Ecant: TJader Aitide $}(>) of our Cowtitutim. the executive power of the 
Uaioa is vested m the President, but under Article jf there it ta be a Counal 
of Ministers with the I^me Mmister at the head to aid and advbe on his 
functions. The President has Uius been made a formal head of the executive 
and the real executive powers are vested in the Ministers or the Cabinet. The 
same provisions obtain in regard to the Government of States: the Covenor 
occupies the position of the head of the exetuHve in the Stal& but It is vir- 
tually the Counal of Ministen in each State that carries on the executive 
Coverameat. In the Indian ConsQ'tutnMi dierefore we have the same rystera 
of parliamentary executive as in England, and the Counal of hUnisters. con- 
^sting as it does of the members of the legislature, (s Lke the British Cabinet 
—“a hyphen which joins, a buckle which fastens the legislative part of the 
State to the executive part".’ 

* In Kerala, however, the commuiust paiW in power for a brief period 
of twenty-seven months in igsyaj. 

103 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

and rapid reforms in the country's eojnomic and social structure, 
Prasad wanted to go slow so that the Government could carry 
public opinion with it. It was, therefore, unsurprising that some- 
times differences arose between the President and the Prime 
Minister on certain major issues. 

For instance, when the Government wanted in 195° rush 
through the Hindu Code Bill, which sought to bring about 
drastic changes in the marriage and property laws of Hindus, 
Prasad advised the Prime Minister against its hasty legislation. 
The President’s riew was that there was no urgency to lake up 
the reform of only one community and that, moreover, the Con- 
stituent Assembly did not have the mandate from the people to 
introduce social legislation of a revolutionary nature. The Bill 
met with strong opposition both from svithin the Congress and 
other sections of public opinion and the Government, therefore, 
was compelled to postpone its consideration. 

Food policy was another major question on which the Presi- 
dent and the Prime Minister did not see eye to eye. The Govern- 
ment’s proposals to impose ceilings on landholdings, to introduce 
co-operative farming and to resort to State trading in foodgra'ms 
created uncertainty in the country, particularly in the rural 
areas. Prasad, who had an intimate acquaintance with India’s 
agricultural problems, felt that these measures were likely to 
disrupt production, dislocate the trade and dampen initiative and 
enthusiasm on the part of the people, especially among those 
engaged in agricultural pursuits. Therefore, in a letter to the 
Prime Minister in June 1959, Prasad gave expression to these 
views and advised a reconsideration of the proposals. He pointed 
out that food production should not be mixed with the pro- 
gramme of soda! legislation. State trading in foodgrains would 
result in multiplying and aggravating difficulties because, apart 
from other factors, it requirM a tremendous organization and 
trained personnel. He urged the encouragement of the existing 
large agricultural farms for uciliring mechanized methods. He 
also recommended the formation of service to-opeiatives of small 
farmers by providing the necessary credit, improved seeds and 
irrigation fadliries. The Prerident added that positive action to 
discourage hoarding would achieve better results than the price 
control. 


104 



RELATIONS WITH RASHTRAPATHl 

Nehru in his reply welcomed the President’s suggestions and 
pointed out that wmle State trading in foodgrains had resulted 
in immediate difficulties, induding an increase in prices, the 
Government had no alternative. He also laid emphasis on the 
service co-operatives though he would like co^iperative farming 
to dev’elop gradually. 

Although the correspondence between the President and the 
Prime Minister was meant to be strictly confidential, its contents 
leaked to the Press; and K. i. Punjabi, who was Seaetary to the 
President, records in his biography of Prasad, that the publica- 
tion of the President’s letter 

‘strengthened the hands of the State governments which were 
reluctant to undertake State trading . . . The President's views 
were generally supported by the Press and by thoughtful people, 
among whom were numbered many Congressmen whose voices 
could not be heard in the party.’ 

Another important letter from the President to the Prime 
Minister, which also found its way into the newspapers, was in 
regard to corruption in high places. C D. DeshmuU, a former 
Finance Minister, had suggested, in a speech in Madras towards 
the end of 1959, the need fora high-powered tribunal to examine 
the charges of corruption against ministers and other influential 
persons. He also asserted that he had conaete evidence to con- 
firm charges of corruptioa, against some top people in the 
government but he would disclose it only to an independent 
tribunal. Prasad observed that the Government shorfld consider 
seriously Deshmukh’s suggestion and take prompt and effective 
measures to root out corruption. Nehru, however, regretted his 
inability to set up a tribunal although be fully shared the Presi- 
dent’s anxiety to put down corruption. 

The introduction of Hindi for official purposes was another 
major issue on which the Prime Minister and the President 
differed. Prasad felt that the use of Hindi in Government offices 
should be speedily and vigorously encouraged so that it might 
become the sole official language as early as possible. Nehru, on 
the other hand, was of opinion that the Government should not 
force the pace of Hindi in offices because, first, there were 
105 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

practical difficulties in using it at all levels of administration and, 
secondly, such a course would meet with stiff opposition from 
non-Hindi areas, especially from the South. 

These instances dearly show that India's first President did 
not function like a figure-head and that he did try to influence 
the Cabinet on major decisions. In fact, Prasad even suggested in 
his address to the Indian Law Association in ip 6 i that there was 
need to consider what exactly were the powers enjoyed by the 
President under the Constitution. The President’s remarks caused 
some surprise in the country because he himself had played a 
conspicuous part in framing the Indian Constitution, and many 
wondered what was the purpose in having the relevant provi- 
sions examined. When Nehru enquired of Prasad as to what it 
was aU about, the Utter was reported to have told the Prime 
Minis ter that it was only a casual suggestion he had made while 
addressing a gathering of lawyers. 

Although the President and the Prime Minister did differ’ on 
some major issues, the relationship between them was perfectly 
cordial; and when Prasad retired in May 1962 the Prime Minister 
and Parliament paid him warm tributes for the ability and tact 
with which be had conducted hims elf in this high office for 
twelve years. The address presented to him on May 8, 1962, said 

'By your qualities of unostentatious grace, your utter simplicity, 
darity of outlook, deep humility and broad humanity, you in- 
vested a special meaning and significance in your choice as Presi- 
dent. As the first President of India, you have enriched and 
embellished the office and are leaving behind inspiring tradi- 
tions.' 

Prasad was succeeded by S- Radhakrishnan who had served as 
Vice-President of India since 1952. As scholar, professor and 
philosopher, he had won great renown both in India and abroad. 
He had also been India's Ambassador in Moscow for three years. 
Within a few months aftw his election as President of India 
came the massive invaaon by China in October 1962, and the 
President, therefore, proclaimed an Emergency in November 
under Artide 352 of the Constitution. 

106 



RELATIONS WITH RASHTRAPATHI 


During the four years he has been Prerident, Radhakrishnan 
has shown courage and statesmanship of a high order. He made 
no secret of the fact that the Chinere invasion had greatly hurt 
the prestige of India. In a speech in Bombay in January 1963, he 
described India's reverses in NEFA as 'a matter of sonow, shame 
and humiliation*. His speeches in the United States and the 
United Kingdom, which he visited in 1963, helped to create a 
better nnderstaning of India’s foreign policy, and strengthened 
India’s friendship with the 'Western world. 

Radhakrishnan often has been quite frank in expressing his 
views On important problems. For example, in his address to the 
first convocation of the Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University 
in November 1963, he attributed the stagnation in India’s agri- 
culture to administrative inefficiency. India’s fanners, he said, 
were intelligent, capable of accepting new methods, and applying 
them to the development of agriculture. So, if the farmers were 
good and the land was there and the Government was improving 
the irrigation facilities, what was it that had led to this deteriora- 
tion in agricultural production? The President raised this ques- 
tion and pointed out that the failure in agriculture indicated 
nothing more than lack of true, wise leadership and administra- 
tive efficiency.' 

Again in his Broadast to the nation on Republic Day in 
January 1964, Radhakrishnan cautioned the country against 
complacency towards corruption. 7 t would be wcU to recognize,' 
he said, ‘that the tolerance of our society for weak, inefficient 
and unclean administration is not unlimited.' 

As in the case of India’s first Presidert, Nehru and Radhakrish- 
nan also got on together very well indeed. In his Republic Day 
message in January 1964, Radhakrishnan expressed his pleasure 
and that of the people cif India in Nehru’s rapid recovery ftom 
his illness, and paid a warm tribute to the Prime Minister’s 
leadership. 'The President said: 'He has brought a modem, 
secular and scientific outlook to our difficult and diverse prob- 
lems and has, indeed, reflected the national purpose over these 
years. More than anyone, our ftime Minister has helped us to 
put us on the right track in our quest for national integration 
and orderly grov^th.’ And on the death of Nehru, the President, 
in the course of a broadcast to Ae nation, siid : 

107 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


‘Nehru hdd the office of the Frime Minister of our country ever 
rince the dawn of independence; and in the long years of his 
Premiership, tried to put our country on a progressive, scientific, 
dynamic and non-communal basis. His steadfast loyalty to certain 
fundamental principles of liberalism gave direction to our 
thought and life ... He used the existing social and political 
institutions and breathed into them a new spirit, a new vitality 

The war with Pakistan was the major event during the 
eighteen-month tenure of Shastri as the Prime Minister. During 
the twenty-two days when the fighting went on, the President 
kept himself in close touch with the ntilitary developments and 
gave his full support to the Prime Minister. As the Supreme 
Commander, the President encouraged the armed forces to give 
of their best and also inspired the people through broadcasts to 
keep their morale high. And when the cease-fire was proclaimed 
on September zind, he pubUdy congratulated Shastii and the 
Chiefs of StaS. He said : 

T should like to congratulate our Prime Minister and the Gov* 
ernment and our Chiefs of Staff, General Chaudhuri, Air Marshal 
Arjan Singh and Vice-Admiral Soman, on the hard and excellent 
work which they and those working under their leadership have 
done in these difficult days. We have today retrieved our prestige 
and it is my hope that our Army, Air Force and Navy con- 
tinue to function with daring, heroism and skill and be treated 
as a force to be reckoned with.’ 

‘ The role of the President in fonning a caretaker Bovemment. following the 
death of Nehiu, has been described in Chaptei X 


IDS 



CHAPTER Vni 


PLANNING COMMISSION- 
SUPER CABINET? 


Ever since the Planning Commission was set up in May 1950, its 
composition, status, powers and functions have been subjected 
to much criticism. In fact, at the time when the Commission 
was constituted, there was no unanimity within the Cabinet 
itself about the need and scope for an independent planning 
body. Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister, did not like it 
and Dr John Mathai, the Finance MinUfer, vigorously opposed 
its formation. The latter argued that the Commission was un- 
necessary at that stage and that it was likely to encroach on the 
authority of the Cabinet. Dr. Mathai felt so strongly about it 
that he resigned from the Cabinet on this issue, as we saw in a 
preceding chapter. 

Public opinion in India is practically unanimous about the 
need for some agency for planning the country’s economy on 
the right lines. No responsible leader or political party has called 
in question the necessity for a plan or a planning body. But 
serious diSeiences prevail about the manner in which planning is 
to be undertaken. On the one hand, there are the socialists and 
communists who want the economy to be brought increasingly 
under rigid State control and who. therefore, favour planning on 
a comprehensive scale. On the other hand, there are parties like 
the Swatantra which admit the need for planning but want it to 
be done In such a way as to promote individual initiative and 
enterprise. 

The Congress, since the thirties, has been staunchly advocat- 
ing a planned economy for India. In 1938 when Subhas Bose was 
the Congress President, a National Planning Committee was 
formed, under the Chairmanship of Nehru, for drawing up a 
plan for the country’s economic development. It was a fifteen- 
member Committee which induded eminent economists, indus- 
trialists and scientists as well as nominees of the provincial 
109 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

governments. As Nehru says, it was ‘a remarkably representative 
committee cutting across political boundaries as well as the high 
barrier between official and noiwjffidal India, except for the fact 
that the Government o{ India was not represent^.’ The Com- 
mittee set up nearly thirty sub-committees to make detailed 
studies of different problems. The Committee's work was inter- 
rupted by the outbreak of the second world ^var. But it did valu- 
able service by producing a series of reports that helped to focus 
attention on the weak spots of the economy. 

The war considerably disrupted our economy but at the same 
time it stimulated discussion among the leaders regarding the 
ways and means to be adopted for a^eving rapid economic pro- 
gress. For example, the Bombay Plan sponsored in 1944 by promi- 
nent industrialists, tecotomended an investment of Rs. 10,000 
CTores in a fifteen-year period for doubling the per capita income. 
The Government of India also began to give serious attention to 
the problem of economic devdopment It constituted in 1944 a 
Plantung and Development Department and an Advisory Plan- 
ning Board in 1046. The details of the Bombay Plan, or of the 
work done by the official committees, do not concern us here. 
What is important to note is that by the time of transfer of 
power in 1947, the country as a whole had become consdcfus of 
the imperative need for an inteUigent and integrated plan to 
bring about the rapid improvement of the economy. It was inevit- 
able, therefore, that soon after the achievement of freedom, the 
Government of India should think of setting up a separate and 
independent oigatuzation for preparing detailed schemes for 
economic development. 


PLANNING OBJECTIVES 

The Planning Cammisrion was accordingly established in 1950. 
The need for comprehensive planning based on a careful apprai- 
sal of resources and an objective analysis of all the relevant 
factors has become impeiadve,' said the Government of India, in 
its resolution of Mar^ 15, 1950, announcing the formation of 
the Planning Commission. These purposes,’ it added, ‘can best 
be achieved through an organization free from the burden of 
day-to-day administration, but in constant touch with the 


110 



PLANNING COMMISSION — SUPER CABINET? 

Government at the highest leveL’ Tlie Commission was enjoined 
to: (a) make an assessment of die material, capital and human 
resources of the country, including technical personnel, and in- 
vestigate the possibilities of augmenting such of these resources 
as are found to be deficient in relation to the nation's require- 
ments; 

(b) to formulate a Plan for the most effective and balanced utiliza- 
tion of the country's resources; 

(c) on a determination of priorities, define the stages in which the 
Plan should be carried out and propose the allocation of resources 
for the due completion of each stage; 

(d) indicate the factors which are tending to retard economic 
development, and determine the conditions which, in view of the 
current social and political situation, should be established for 
the successful execution of the Plan; 

(e) determine the nature of the maddnery which will be neces- 
sary for securing the successful implementation of each stage of 
the Flan in all its aspects; 

(Q appraise from time to time the progress achieved in the execu- 
tion of each stage of the Flan and recommend the adjustments of 
policy and measures that such appraisal may show to be neces- 
sary; and 

(g) make such interim or ancillary recommendations as appear to 
it to be appropriate either for facilitating the discharge of the 
duties assigned to it; or on a consideration of the prevailing 
economic conditions, current policies, measures and deveJoproent 
programme; or on an examination of such spcdfic problems as 
may be referred to it for advice by Central or State Governments. 

MEMBERSHIP OF COMMISSION 
The Commission started functiooing in March 1950 with Nehru 
as Chairman and five fuU-rirae members. These were G. L. Nanda, 
V. T. Krishnamachari, G. L. Mehta, R. K- Patil and C. D. Desh- 
mukh- All of them had vast cacperience in different fields of 
activity. Naada had for many years specialized in problems of 
industrial labour. Krishnamadiari had distinguished himself as 
a competent administrator in British India and in Indian States. 
Mehta had an intimate knowledge of business and finance. Both 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

Deshmukh and Patil had been in the Indian Civil Service and 
had first-hand knowledge of administrative problems. To start 
mth, the Prime Minister was the only link with the Cabinet. In 
May 1950, Deshmukh joined the Cabinet as Finance Minister 
but he continued to retain his membership of the Planning Com- 
mission. Since then the Rnance Minister has always been a 
member of the Planiung Commission. In September 1951 Nanda 
also joined the Cabinet as Minister for Planning but continued to 
work as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission till 
February 1933 when V. T, Kiishnamachaii was appointed to 
this post. The Commission was further strengthened in 1936 
with the appointment of V. K. Krishna Menon, Defence Min- 
ister and Professor P. C. Mahalanobis, the Honorary Statistical 
Adviser to the Cabinet. The composition of the Commission 
underwent some changes in the subsequent years, and at the 
time of Nehru’s death it consisted of eleven members besides the 
Prime Minister, namely: Asoka Mehta, Shriman Narayan, 
T. N. Sinah, P. C. Mahalanobis. M. S. Thacker, Tarlok Singh, 
V. K. R. V. Rao, G. L. Naoda. T. T. Kiishnamachari, Swaran 
Singh and B. R. Bhagat. 

No specific qualifiations and experience have been laid down 
for membership; the appointments are made by the Prime Min- 
ister in consultation with the Deputy Chairman of the Planning 
Commission. There is abo no fixed tenure for members. Since 
1953 full-time members have been given salaries and allowances 
on the same scale as Ministers of State. There are no definite 
rules in regard to the distribution of portfolios among members 
of the Commission. This often depends on the background and 
special interests of (he members concerned. 

HOW BIG IS THE COMMISSION 
The Planning Comnussiou. started on ^ modest scale but in 
comsc of time it developed into a huge organization. At present 
it consists of two co-ordinating Divisions, six General Divisions 
and twelve Subject Divisions. The Oxrdinating Divisions arc: 
the Programme Adminbtration Division and the Flan Co-or- 
dination DisTsion. The General Divisions deal with financial 
resources, economic policy and foreign trade; perspective 
112 



PLANNING COMMISSION — SUPER CABINET? 


planning; labour and wnplo>Tncnt; statistics and sijr\ cys; natural 
resources and scientific icseardt; and management and adminis- 
tration. The Subject Divisions are concerned vvith agricutnire, 
cooperation and community development; irrigation and power; 
land reforms; industry and minerals; village and small industries; 
transport and communication; education; health; housing; social 
Welfare; rural works; and public co-operation. Besides, there are 
a large number of committees and panels to advise the Com- 
mission.* The total expenditure on the Planning Commission has 
also gone up sharply from Rs. 8.56 lakhs in 1950-51 to Rs. 67.02 
lakhs in 196^-5 (estimated). The increase in expenditure during 
this period on the pay of officers was from Rs. 3,19.554 to 
Rs. 30,05,500; pay of establishment from Rs. 1,57,676 to 
Rs. 18,66,800; allowances and honorariums from Rs. 2,01,685 
to Rs. 13,27,700; and other charges from Rs. 1,77,821 to Rs. 
5 , 00 , 000 . 


HOW THE COMAflSSlON WORKS 
The Planning Commission works In close consultation with the 
Cabinet. The Prime Minister and other Ministers, who are mem- 
bers of the Commission, attend all meetings of the Commission 
at which major issues arc discussed. Similarly, (he Deputy Chai^ 
man and members of the Planning Commission attend meetings 
of the Cabinet and its Committees when discussions take place 
on important matters connected with Planning. Thus as V. T. 
Krishnamachari says, in his book, Fundamentois of Planning in 
India, 

‘there is close and continuous touch between the Planning Com- 
mission, on the one hand, and the Ministers and the Cabinet and 
Cabinet Committees on the other. This places the Commision 
under a two-fold obligation: first, it has to maintain secrecy in 
regard to differences of views between the Commission and 
Union and State Ministers. It cannot give out what its recom- 
mendations are and to what extent these are accepted or rejected; 

' For » detailed account of the Conuiiusion's or^nization. see The Planning 
ConmUsion by K. K. Paranjape CHae In^an Institute of Public Adimnistra- 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

secondly, it cannot engage in ronttoversics in public about the 
Plan, or reply directly to criticisms. It is for the Government con- 
cerned to decide in individual cases what information they would 
like to place before the public.* 

The Commission is supposed to be only an advisory body. Its 
tecommendations are not necessarily accepted by the Cabinet, 
despite the fact that the Prime Minister and some of his col- 
leagues holding key portfolios arc also members of the Commis- 
sion. Nevertheless, in practice, the Commission has over the years 
grown greatly in strength, power and influence. Until January 
1964. the Cabinet Secretary also acted as Secretary to the Com- 
mission; and many senior officers of the Government have been 
closely associated with the work of the Commission at various 
stages. The State Governments too have come to rely increas- 
ingly on the Commission for economic advice and financial 
assistance. 

The composition and working of the Planning Commission 
have come In for aitidsm from variom quarters — from Parlia- 
ment and State legislatures, official committees, industrial organ- 
laatlons, academic bodies, individual economists and, above all, 
from Nehru himself. It is necessary to examine some of the argu- 
ments of the ctirta in order to find out to what extent the Com- 
□ussion has helped or hindered the country’s economic progress. 

The most weighty and detailed criticism of the Commission 
has come from the Estimates Committee of the Lok Sabha. 'The 
Committee carefully enquired into all aspects of the Commis- 
sion’s working and, in its report submitted in April 1958, made 
a number of recommendations. The Committee recognized the 
difficulties inherent in planning to a federal state but suggested 
that the Commission should be so organized as to eliminate 
delays, avoid duplication, ensure co-ordination and produce 
results. It referred to the generally prevalent feeling that the 
Planning Commission was not just an advisory body but an addi- 
tional authority to be reckoned with, which, though not part of 
the ordinary machinery of the Government of India, decided 
every programme of work and whose decisions were to be carried 
out by all. The Committee noted that the need to consult the 
Commission and obtain its sanctions sometimes caused delays 
“4 



PLANNING COMMISSION-SUPPR CABINET? 

And dtotirfanion. The ^th the 

that the Prime Minister should be ^nn-ction was ‘ahso- 
Hinning Commission Although such a touU 

lately nlcessary- in the formative nages, and his guidance 
still be necessary for the f ’"“i”?;,,,, ^th the Com- 

As regards the association of otter m continue 

mission, the Committee felt that it , jij [,c achieved 

this practice and that aderiuate rsHirdi attend the meet- 

by inviting the abin^et “jLy ioriting the members of 

the cabinet meetings when 

The ^etice of having a "™”°^'j^a“7by the^Commmee. 
mission and the Cabinet was also ent . ll„Ia ,ime to 

The Cabinet Secretary, it was imlnted out, ha^ ui^^^^^ 
devote to the Planning Comtoirfon ^ pot help to 

rapidly inaeasing; moreover this ® nf tudgment.' It 

seLe\ freshness of oudook and Independ^ee o iuag^ ^ 

was essential, therefore, that the Commission shouia 
wholMime Seaetary, of the Committee were 

The other immirtant MlhalanobU should be 

that the 'anomalous position of Profw various Divl- 

tectilied, that the allocation of Organisation 

sions,- should be done on » sational to tha^W 
and Methods section which, in ***'? , the Commission 

no useful work, should function actively, _t te; 
should be dive«ed of exeCTitiw^ sanctioned only 

aid to public bodies, and I” many of the mam 
when they were fully not been implemented, 

recommendations of the Comm Gokhale Institute of 

Professor D. R. GadgU. Memorial Lectures 

Politics and Economics, Poona, in his Lasla ivi 

•rtnvi of the Land Reforms 

‘Hie Committee’s commenO worVang in iW* 

Division are significant It of land ‘““J**"**- ‘ilJd 

there Is no person '^ho has per^«^“7^, absence of 
problems in the States. «tent who 

people in this Division might, to They recommend that pe”®“^ . 

^^s In regard to land «f^^^cVtSnments and have attained the 
have field ,V ,"*L^ted^ this Division.' 

necessary status should be aK>«a““ 

1*5 



CABINET government IN INDIA 

delivered at Ahmedabad in 1958, also critically examined the 
working of the Planning Conunission and made many sugges- 
tions for enhancing its usefulness. He admitted that the Commis- 
sion had produced some technical reports of a high order but so 
far as its main job was concerned, it had not done it properly. 

‘The Planning Commission,’ declared Professor Gadgil, ‘has 
failed in almost every respect.’ He added, 

‘It has failed to put together meaningful plans after due technical 
and other examination; it has failed to produce objective criteria 
relating to ojmposition. of programmes, allocations, etc.; it has 
faded to produce annual plans with appropriate breakdowns and 
failed to watch the progress of the Plan even in its broadest 
elements; it has failed to advise consistently on right policies 
being followed and at times even persisted in the adoption of 
wrong and inappropriate ones.’ 

Professor Gadgil felt that the situation could be remedied only 
by going back to the functions of the Planning Commission as 
originally laid down. It should not have executive powets and 
should not be mixed up with the essentially political process of 
policy making. The final decisions regarding economic policy 
should fully rest with the special Committees of the Cabinet and 
appropriate Committees of Seaetaries, and ultimately the Cab- 
inet itself. He also suggested that no minister induding the Prime 
Minister should be a member of the Commission. If, however, the 
Cabinet should have a Minister for Planning, he alone should be 
a member of the Commission and its Chairman. The Deputy 
Chairman of the Commission should be 'an administrator of wide 
experience,” and other members should be experts, the expertize 
chiefly required being of natural sdentists, technicians, sodal 
sdentists, statistidans and economists. 

Both the Estimates Committee and Professor Gadgil made their 
comments in 1958. Since then the composition and functions of 
the Commission have broadly remained the same, that is to say. 
Cabinet ministers still retain thdr membership of the Commis- 
sion and it continues to exercise, as before, executive functions.’ 

' The {oimioon Cf{ the NatioiuA Tbnnmg Council by Lai Bahadur Shastri U 
discussed in chapter XI. 



PLAKNING COMMISSION— SUPER CABINET? 

An important change that has been brought about in its composi- 
tion is the appointment in November 1963 of Asoka Mehta as 
its Deputy Chairman. Mehta is widely respected for his ability 
and scholarship, but he lacks administrative experience u’hlch is 
very essential for one holding this key post in the Commission. 

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL 
Apart from the Planning Commission, there is another body, 
namely, the National Development Council which is concerned 
wth the formulation 0/ economic polides. The Council was set 
up in August 1952 with a view to providing an opportunit)* to 
the State Governments to participate actively in the formulation 
of plans. Tn a country of the size of India,' said the Planning 
Commission, ‘where the States have under the Constitution full 
autonomy within their own sphere of duties, it is necessary to 
have a forum such as a National Development Council at which, 
from time to time, the Prime Minister of India and the Chief 
Ministers of States, can review the working of the Plan and of its 
various aspects.’’ 

The functions of the National Development Council are : 

(3) to zeiiew the irking of the National Plan {rom time to time; 

(b) to comider important questions of sodal and economic poli- 
des affecting national development; and 

(c) to recommend measures for (he achievement of the aims and 
targets set out in the Narional Plan, including measures to secure 
the active partidpation and co-operation of the people, improve 
the effidency of the administrative services, ensure the fullest 
development of the less advanced regions and sections of the 
community and through sacrifices borne equally by all dtizens, 
build up resources for national development. 

The National Development Council consists of the Prime 
Minister, the Chief Ministers of all States and the Members of 
the Planning Commission. 

According to V. T. Krishnamadiart, the National Develop- 
ment Council has a 'vital role’. He observes : 

*In January 1966. Ashok Mehta JcHned Mrs Gandhi’s Cabinet as Minister 
for Planning while continuing as die Deputy Chairman of the Planning 
Comiaitnon. 


117 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

It ptovides a foium in ■wKich the Union Ministeis and Chief 
Ministers of States discuss the Plans at important stages in their 
formulation. Plans are also apjffovcd at its meetings after their 
completion and before they are presented to the Parliament and 
the State Legislatures. In this way, the national character of the 
Plans is emphasiied. The Council al«> considers sodal and econo- 
mic policies affecting the country from a national point of view, 
so that where necessary umfonnity may be secured. In these 
ways, it gives a lead to the country on broad issues of policy and 
promotes collective thinking and joint action on matters of 
national importance.’ 

But neither the Planning Commission nor the National Devel- 
opment Council has served as effective instirunents of planning. 
The First Five Year Plan was carried out without much difficulty 
because it was relatively a modest Plan. It did not need large 
resources either from within or from abroad and, moreover, the 
favourable seasonal conditions helped to inaease agricultural 
production. But the Second and Third Plans ran into serious diffi- 
culties. Production in agriculture and industry has shown no 
appreciable improvement. The foreign exchange situation has 
always remained critical owing to the large-scale import of food- 
grains and capital goods and the failure to bring about a substan- 
tial and continuous inaease in eic|K>rt5. The inability to keep the 
prices of essential articles at reasonable levels has been causing 
concern particularly to the poorer sections of the community. 
Heavy taxation* has imposed a severe burden on the masses as 
well as on industries ana has been an important factor in push- 
ing up prices. At the same time, unemplo^'ment has become more 
acute than before. The Estimates Committee had suggested in 
1958 that the unemployment problem should be taclded ‘in a 
bold and energetic manner’ and that there should be ‘a continu- 
ous assessment of the progress made so that timely steps could be 
taken to ensure that the targets of employment laid down in the 
Second Plan are not only realized but even bettered to a substantial 

‘ Against the target of ad<Iit>oi»l taxation of Rs.i.7so cioiea indicated in 
the third Plan, the Central and State Goveminentt have already tmderuken. 
in the fint four years, taxation yiddtog about F&i.;oo crom over the i>lan 
period. 

118 



PLANNING COMMISSION— SUPER CABINET? 

decttc' The Second Han, however, ended with a backlog of 
n S miC nnTmployedi’and .he Third Plan ™ ^ ' 
sal, issued by the Planning Cotnniission in No«tnte ^ 
admitted that ‘no serious dent hK been made on the 
unemploymenf. The appraisal also pointed out 
rate of increase in national income in the ' 5 , ‘„’t 

was abont 2-5 per cent as compared to the rate of over s per cent 

'Tt^i™“,”“'notsnrpri^^^ 

become disillusioned and the Planing Co ..iftn of oublic 

made the target of aitidsm. Thet'l' P “-V “SeS rf 

opinion which has a good word to »y * . ^pmarked in 

the Commission. B. M. Birla, a leading 

his speech at the annual meeting of the e 

Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Mareh 9 5 ,. 

were planning lor poverty and not for prosperity. He saiu. 

'The Planning Commission says that e^ by 2000 ■J-Oj 9 ”=:*''^ 
of the popidfuon will sdU be poor. 'Wat sm » 
this? '^Lve been planning since 1946 and 
to 2000 Ail., that is for fifty-four years, and we sha 1 s ^ mmin 
poor. If we have to remain pw, we could h ^seriously 
™n without planning. I think there is something very seriously 
wrong with out thinldng.’ 

Nehru himself confessed that he had been rather frightened 
by the manner in which the Planning Conum^™ ha^ powm 

debate in Parliament in November 1963 on ‘he 

debate “ TliiTfi Plan Glic Commission was described as a 

S^Sln sljLa" ilatu.^ P-Jures were held^pou- 
sible for the disappointing progress of the Plan. T. . ^ 

mai2S. howeve?. defended the Commission and commended its 

119 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

work in drawing up and supervmng the implementations of the 
Flan. He said. ‘It is not the Planning Commission’s job to lay 
down policies or to implement the Plans. This is a sphere of 
responsibility essentially of the Government.’ He added that the 
Commission was 'a useful weapon for by-passing the difficulties 
of a federal set-up. What the Central Ministers could not ask the 
States to do, the Planning Commission could.'* 

While the dissatisfaction with the Planning Commission is 
understandable, the suggestions that it could be made more use- 
ful by depriving it of its executive functions and by excluding 
the Prime Minister and other ministers from its membership are 
hardly helpful. The aitics seem to forget that if the plans have 
failed to deliver the goods, it is not due to the unwieldy nature 
of the Commission or its being a super-cabinet but precisely 
because planning has been done in an unrealistic and unscientific 
manner. There has been far too much of ideological bias in 
Hanning. In the name of sodalism, whose objectives have never 
been dearly defined, the sphere of the State is being extended 
rapidly and activiUes have been undertaken which could very 
well have been left to the private sector. The bias in favour of 
heavy industries, fondness for huge and expensive projects, in- 
adequate attention to minor irrigation, neglect of agriculture, 
excessive emphasis on austerity and curbs on consumption, 
failure to develop consumer industries vigorously and, above all. 
ineffidcncy in administration — it is these factors that have 
slowed down the progress of the economy and given a bad name 
to the Planning Commission. As Mr Tarlok Singh, a member of 
the Planning Commission, pointed outina note circulated among 
members of the National Development Council in January 1965, 


‘The degree of disdpline in policy, so essential for effective and 
continuous admioiscrative action, has not been available in many 
key areas. This has been the position over the years, both at the 

’In April 1564 the Planning Craununon deaded to divest Itself of execu- 
tive responribilicy which it had taken upon itself In such fields as the rural 
works and industrialization progrzmnc; water supply and promotion of public 
co^iperanon in construefion activities. Executive responsibility in these 
matters was transferred to the relevant Mmistries. This did not mean, how- 
ever. that the Commission would te^n from takine up and executng 
projects on its own. 


120 



PLANNING COMMISSION— SUPER CABINET? 

national and atata kvela, and d^ite tha ”f. '!’= 

National Development Council and several favourable politial 
factors as between the Centre and the States. 

Certainly, the Commission needs to be overhauled. 

should be made advisory and its perMnncl 

dude not only eminent economists but also p 

triabsts whose’ practical ertperience wffl prove '"vakabk tn 

preparation and execution of the Plans. ® ta .mderco a 

ihe very techniques and obiectives of planning “ 

radical change so as to enthuse the peop e and 

in them that the Plans are meant to achieve prospenty here and 

now and not in a dim, distant future. 


■Hi. wusht .« be done by die ,pp«nm.m. of the N.ooa.l H.™ies 
Coundl referred to In chapter JQ. 


izi 



CHAPTER IX 


HOW MANY MINISTERS? 


One of the delicate tasks which the Prime Minister in a demo- 
aacy has to tackle is to determine the size of the Cabinet. There 
can, of course, be no rigid rules in this regard. The Prime Minister 
has to take into account various factors — personal, political, 
financial and administrative — in deciding about the number of 
colleagues he should have. The need to give representation to 
important regions is another ma|or consideration. Regional fac- 
tors have played ao Important part in the selection of ministers 
in other countries as well. As Bynun E. Carter says, ‘Regional 
representation has always been one of the considerations which 
the American President recognized in the formation of the 
Cabinet. Even those Presidents, whose Cabinets have been pre- 
dominantly from one section, must consider the wisdom of such 
action. Similarly in Canada, regional considerations are of the 
first importance . . . Although geographical considerations have 
some place in Britain, they are not of comparable importance to 
tile position they occupy in the United States or Canada.* 
Political writers in ancient India gave much thought to the 
size of the King’s Cabinet. Authorities on Hindu Law generally 
favoured cabinets ranging from a strength of twelve to twenty. 
Kautilya did not suggest any specific number but he felt that the 
king should have an inner council of three or four ministers for 
frequent consultation on ImporUnt and confidential matters, 
apart from other jninistws whose advice he might seek occasion- 
ally. Akbar carried on with four principal ministers and Shivaji 
with eight. 

Under the British rule, the Executive Council of Warren 
Hastings, the first Governor-General, had foui members. Pitt's 
India Act of 1784 reduced it to three and the Council’s strength 
remained at that figure till 1833 ^hen a fourth member was 
added. A fifth member was appointed in t86i and a sixth one in 
1S74. The Act of 1919 remo^ the statutory limitation on the 

IXZ 



HOW MANY MINISTERS? 

strength of the Coundl and it was 1'^ 

Governor-General to fix the number. The C^n ^wavs 

the subsequent years varied fmrn ttae to 'In S 

remained a small and compact body. In r939 1 ct.pen and 
hers. Three years later, its strength was increased 
it remained at about this number until the interim government 

TruS'S^Soill CabineU of to nineteerith - 
tury were relatively small In size. Robert Pee rampbell- 
abinet of fourteen and DisneU had Welve. 

Bannerman in 1906 had a Cabinet of nineteen w -{ohteen 
r93S had twenty-two. Attlee’s 
ministers while Churchill’s of 195* 
abinet had a strength of twentynne Hn 
Douglas-Home enlarged it to twenty-three which, 

The Economist, is 'at least Eve Mgg« than it “"f' 
efficient functioning,’ Wilson’s Cabinet also contains twenty 

‘’“’fhe'tml'r^ of opinion in the tm seems to favo^ 
of not more than twenty. Attlee has 'K 

siie’ of the Cabinet should be ’at the Lit j 

Amery feels that the ideal Cabinet should ^o"‘ “ 
dozen ministers, all entirely free from Apart 

SmaU Cabinets have many adrantap over '"E" P 

from the merit of economy. smaU abmets 
to manage; decisions can be reached r'^’“'“7’aS^pUne and 
is facilitated; secrecy is easier to maintam; and discipUne 

teamworkcanbeenforcedmoreeffectivtdy. possible 

Despite these advantages, howevm. it SSe Se 

for mLy countries to keep their C’l'”®. “““ 5fp“‘Lent 
functions of government have enormously 0^^ 

years. BesidesfrepresentaHon has to be ^™n m the &bmen M 
Llltical reasons, to influential ^ups ‘he pm^ ^ w 

mi so more ministeri have to be appointed than what is smelly 

Ifd'Set^lfSzfS'lTc^Kn^s';^^^ been the 


123 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


practice in Britain and many other democratic countries. As The 
Economist remarked, ‘the Cabinet — down to and including Mr 
Wilson’s — remains a pretty messy affair, rather too large and 
formed on no Platonic prinoplcs; its size and nature ate deter- 
mined by the Interaction of the Prime Minister’s wishes and of 
the pressures on him.’ ‘ 

The Council of Ministers in free India was comparatively a 
small body in the beginning. Until the inauguration of the 
Republic in January 1950, there were fourteen Cabinet hhnisters, 
four Ministers of State and two Deputy Ministers. After the gen- 
eral election in 1957, the Council consisted of thirteen Cabinet 
Ministers, fourteen l^nisters of State and twelve Deputy Minis- 
ters. When the Cabinet was reconstituted after the general elec- 
tion in April 196a, it included seventeen Ministers of the Cabi- 
net, twelve Ministers of State and twenty-two Deputy Ministers. 

Nehru was often ciiridzed for keeping large and unwieldy 
Cabinets. The critidsm became more persistent soon after the 
proclamation of the emergency in October j 962. Many felt both 
in Parliament and outside that the Cabinet was too big to func- 
tion effectively, emedally when the country was confronted 
with the task of defending its integrity and independence against 
the Chinese attack. In the Ixik Sabha a resolution was moved in 
November 1962 suggesting a reduction in the size of the Council 
of Ministers and emphasizing the need for rigorous austerity in 
ministerial dicles. Nehru opposed the resolution, pointing out 
that the emergency had actually increased the work of the min- 
isters. He »id, ‘merely to say that the Ministry should be reduced 
has no meaning to me. If the work is greater, it has to be done 
effidently.' 


STATES EMULATE CENTRE 

One undesirable result of maintaining an unwieldy Cabinet at 
the Centre has been that the Chief Ministers of States also fol- 
lowed Nehru’s example. Thus after the general election of 1962 
States vied with one another in having the largest number of 

* Th* Eeofiomist made these comnenCs ta us issue of Tebiuiiy jj, 1965. 
whJe reviewing the book Cabinet Refom in Britain JOi<-io6j by Hans 
Daalder (Oxford). y « » r 



HOW MANY MINISTERS? 

mii&ten. The Punjab had thiity-one ministeis as *° 

fifteen in 1957. Uttar Pradesh increased its strength “ 

seventeen, Rajasthan from eleven to twenty an 

eight to fifteen. In addition, most States also 

number of ministers of State, deputy ministers and parhamentary 

XtSef Minister of the Punjab. SardarPratapSinghfeltan, 

sought to justify the size of his Cabinet on the grou 

was necessary to establish the wid«t possible con a , , 

people and to understand their problems at fast han . 

of the opposition, he said, had been going about fos c ^ ^ 

alism among the people and telling them that e , . 

interests were not fully safeguarded and. in order l 

propaganda, representation had to be ^ven in the 

various secHoiS. Further, a sum of Rs. 135 M pun. 
spent in the execution of the Third Hve Year P an 
jab. and he wanted the largest team of men, imbued wth a 
of the Plan, to administer the funds for its cfiectivc implcmenta 

“ H'owever, towards the end of l^a. *5; 

down the size of its ministry to ei^t. the 

being put on the Chief Ministers of other 

size oftheix ministry. But no Chief Minister ^s 

the example of the Punjab on the ground that conditions m his 

State were fundamentally different. Vrmioht 

The adoption of the Kamaraj Plan in Septm er 9 ^ 
about a drastic reduction in Cabinet size both in ^nSnisters 
In the States. At the Centre the number of Cat;"'' 
was reduced from eighteen to twelve and so far as jo 

concerned, the Congress Parliamentary Board issu n 

the effect that no State should °i^Stes bu“ 

twenty. This principle was generally followed in , , ^ 

an exception was made in regard t®. Uttar Prad^h and 
Maharashtra where the strength was permitted to 
twenty^J^e and twenty-five respectively. c»r,f*tnKer lofit 

Confining ourselves to the Centre, although i P , 
the number of Cabinet ministers was reduced to g 
Kamaraj Plan, it was increased in subse^ent mon ’ , j. 
the appiintment of Mahavir Tyagi as Minister of Rehabilitation 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


in April 1964 its strength was raised to fourteen.* Moreover, the 
number of Ministers of Stateand Deputy Ministers waspractically 
tma€ected by the Kamaraj Plan. At the time of Nehru’s death in 
May 1964' there were at the Centre fourteen Cabinet Ministers, 
twelve Ministers of State and twenty-one Deputy Ministers. 

A large Cabinet is often sought to be just^ed in India on the 
ground of the vastness of the country. Even in the United King- 
dom, which has only a population of about fifty-two million as 
compared with India’s 450 million, the Council of Ministers 
under Harold Wilson consists of no fewer than 105 members — 
or roughly one Labour MJ*. in three — including Cabinet Minis- 
ters, Ministers not in the Cabinet, Law Officers, Junior Ministers 
and Parliamentary Secretaries. But it should be remembered that 
the UK is a unitary State and India a federal one. In a federation, 
the Centre normally confines itself to those functions that arc of 
national and strategic nature, leaving the rest to State Govern- 


The large ^e of the Council of Ministers in India tends also 
to ligate administrative expenditure. Ministers are paid a 
monthly salapr of I^. 1,250 and Deputy Ministers Rs. 1,750/-. 
Labinet Ministers, in addition, get a sumptuary allowance of 
M. 500 per month. The total expenditure on the salary and 
^owances of fifty-two ministers in 1961-3 was Rs. zi,6i,ooo.* 
This, of course, is not a large sum. considering the fact that the 
Government of India's revenue expenditure is of the order of 
1 ^. 2,000 CTorcs per year. Even so. few will really cavil at the 
^e or the ^enditure on sabry and allowances, provided the 
Council of Ministers as a whole works like a team with efficiency, 
det^ination and discipline in tackling the difficult problems 
confrontmg the country.* ^ 

.eK ^ Reh,bilt,tion on April ,6. ,964. Apnl 

R^enuVoTApril Je « Mmirier for 

in a ^ Nehru 

SaUrii^nd'^owamL^^ ’'’*** *"* Ka®**'* 

Deputy Minister* from Kn -.r^n ^ Rj.i.joo per month and that of 

present pracHee of^ng thw'frM discontinue 

sought m reduce the 

• The ftmjgth of the P” ^ 

Chapter* X and XIL Shartn and Mr* Gandhi is discussed In 


126 



CHAPTER X 


AFTER NEHRU-SHASTRI 


Nehru died at about 2 pJU. on May 27, 1964, and immediately 
G. L. Nanda, seniormost minister, was sworn in as the acting 
Prime Minister. Some constitutional experts considered the 
appointment of the acting Prime Minister as inegular and un- 
necessary. nie In^an Constitution contains no specific provision 
for automatic succession when the Prime Minister dies in office. 
It was, therefore, suggested that, as in Britain,* the President 
should have asked the Couodl of Ministers to contviue in office 
until a new leader was elected and sworn in as Prime Minister. 
Other experts, however, pointed out that with the death of the 
Prime Minister, the Council stood dissolved. They referred to 
Article 74(1) of the Constitution which dearly says that ‘there 
shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the 
head to aid and advise the President in his functions.' And since 
there cannot be a Council of Ministers without a Prime Minister, 
the President did the right thing in asking Nanda to act until the 
election of a new leader. 

There is no doubt that, from the point of view of the spirit of 
the Constitution, the procedure adopted by Radbakrishnan was 
correct and democratic. 

The choice of a successor to Nehru was the most difficult and 
delicate task that ever confronted the Congress Party in its his- 
tory of eighty-five years. Although the question, ‘Who After 
Nehru?" had been discussed aU over the world for a long time, 
few in the Congress took it seriously for, until the beginning of 
1964, Nehru was in the best of health; and even when be fell ill 
in January that year, he recovered quickly (though not com- 
pletely) and was attending to his work as usual. In fact, in his 
Press Conference on May 18th, when a correspondent raised the 
succession issue, Nehru replied. "My life is not going to end so 

* According to A. B. Kadi. ‘Sh«ild the Prime Mnlster die in office, the ten 
of the Minlnen rasrin In office sati] die eeir CovemmeBC it roamnited.’ 

127 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


soon'j a remark that was greeted with loud applause by the 
men. a rather unusual thing In a Press Conference. Nehru had 
also planned to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Con- 
ference in London in July 1964. ffis death, therefore, came as a 
complete surprise. It was all the more creditable, then, that the 
Congress was able to settle the suaxssion problem swiftly and 
smoothly by unanimously electing Lai Bahadur Shastri as Prime 
Minister. 

Certain aspects of the election deserve careful notice. Although 
technicaUy it was the responsibility of the Congress Parliamen- 
tary Party to choose a new leader in place cd Nehru, the Congress 
Working Committee also claimed a say In the matter because, it 
was argued, the future of the Congress organization itself would 
depend largely on how the new Prime Minister conducted the 
a^lrs of the nation. 


TWO CONTESTANTS 

There were actually hs’o contestants— Moratji Desai and Lai 
Bahadur Shastri. Desai claimed the right to stand for the high 
office on the ground of his long and distinguished service to the 
Congress and the country. He had s«ved as Chief Minister of 
Bombay with great ability; and as Union Minister of Commerce 
and Industry and as Finance Minister, he displayed considerable 
initiative and courage. He had been tbe senioimost minister of 
the Union Cabinet until his resignation in August 1963 under 
the Kamara) Flan. Desai fdt that had he continued in the Cabinet 
he, not Nanda, would have been made tbe acting Prime Minister 
and his claim to be Nehru’s successor would have been unassail- 
able. He bad submitted his restgoation solely in tbe interest of 
party discipline and he expected that the Congress would recog- 
nize his services by electing him the Prime Minister. 

Desai had a considerable following among States in the 
northern and eastern parts of India. He also received strong and 
unexpected support from the leftist group of the Congress led by 
Krishna Menon and K. D. Malaviya. These leaders, it was repor- 
ted, opposed the election of Shastri as Prime Minister because of 
his role in ousting them from Nehru’s Cabinet. But Shastri was 
favoured by a majority of States, especially from the South. 

128 



AFTER NEIlRU'-SilASTRI 

^Mraj, the Congress President and powerful provincial chiefs 
WcA^ya Ghosh of West Bengal and Sanjiva Reddy of Andhra 
|«desh also indicated their preference for Shastri. Those who 
®^fd Sha^i found him to be the fittest successor to Nehru 
^use, apart from his popularity and long political and parlia- 
mentary career, he was a man of moderate view's, held in high 
Weea even by the parties in opposition. Moreover, it was wid«y 
f that Nehru himself had unmisfakahly shown his liking 
‘Or Shastri as hSs successor. After the death of Pandit Pant in 
1901, Shastri became the Minister for Home Affairs, and in this 
Qjradty he did outstanding work that greatly endeared him to 
Nehru. The latter was also reporte^y very reluctant to permit 
mm to resign under the Kamanj Plan. And so when, in January 
* 9 ^ 4 . Nehru fell ill at Bhubaneswar he decided to take back into 
if only Shastri in preference to senior leaders like 

Morarjl Desai or Jagjivan Ram or S. K. Patil. 

It now looked as if an open contest was inevitable and the 
Congress would split. At this stage the Congress Working Com- 
Odttee dedded that the Congress should first ascertain the con- 
«asu$ among the Congress M.P4 and other members of the 
farty. Kamaraj. the Congress President, did this fob with speed 
3 od adroitness, ably assisted by Atuiya Ghosh of West Bengal, 
Sanjiva Reddy of Andhra Frade^ and NijaJingappa of Mysore. 
When Desai was informed that the consensus was overwhelm- 
ingly in favour of Shastri, he withdrew from the contest. So the 
Congress Parliamentary Party met in New Delhi on June and, for 
the formal election of the new leader. Kamaraj presided over the 
meeting. Nanda, the acting Prime Minister, proposed the name 
of Shastri and it was promptly seconded by Desai, a gesture that 
greatly enhanced his reputation. Shastri was thus unanimously 
elected leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party. 

Although the meeting was ejrpected to be a mere formal affair, 
it was much more than that. As the Parliamentary Correspondent 
of the SMtesJTwm observed: 'It proved to be a historic occasion, 
as dramatic as it was dignified. It was solemn, somewhat 
poignant, and at times touching. Never before have so many 
Congress M — and Congress leaders who are not in Parliament 

gathered under one roof as they did today under the domed 

ceotr^ of Parliament House and seldom before have they 

E >*9 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


been so conscious of history in the making as they were this 
morning/ 

Why did Morarji Desai lose the contest? As we have seen, he 
had very good qualifications to be Prime Minister. But he had 
become rather unpopular when, in his capacity as Finance Minis- 
ter — he held this key post continuously for five years — he intro- 
duced the Gold Control Bill and the compulsory deposit scheme 
for raising additional funds for fighting the Chinese aggression. 
Although the Cabinet fully supported these measures, they were 
looked upon as his creation and he was singled out for criticism. 
Desai s generally stubborn attitude also cost him some popu- 
larity. For example, in April 1965 when a demand was made in 
the Lok Sabha that the Attorney-General be summoned to the 
House to give his legal opinion on the compulsory deposit 
scheme, Desai, the then Finance Minister, declared bluntly that 
he would not agree to this suggestion ‘even if that be the unani- 
mous ^h of the House.’ This remark is believed to have irritated 
many Memtes of Parliament and ultimately led to his defeat in 
the battle of succession. 


It is oft«n suggested that Nehru himself never favoured the 
idea of Morarji Desai succeeding him as Prime Minister. D. R. 
^nkekar says, in his biography of Lai Bahadur Shastri, that 
Nehm took the decision to deny the leadership after him to 
” *961 when, after Pant’s death, he 
bloAed 1 ^ formal promotion and designation as Number Two 
in the Cabinet. Mankekar observes: 


Neta muld to convince himttif that dentonaHc 
^aUsm as also other domestic and international polities, 
were not safe in Mora^i’s hands. Nehru considered Morarji's 

Zfet MtTr: apart from his 

much alked of nghhst ideology. Nehru also thought Morarji 

enHee V and tact needed to carry the 

entire party with him in the stormy days ahead.' 

hiio'/L? ■“‘a ““aafl Desai mainly 

Churchill, FranUin Roose- 
velt and many other great leaders, was fond of power, and if 



AFTER NEllRU — SHASTRl ^ 

only if ho had boon in good h'd*. Uvo 

^ft.L u. five-vcai term from 19&7 " “‘“.l.j ,c 


only if he had been in gooa 

offiio for another ‘'™J{?”hod a nSe record ar 

general election, and thcr^y ea nearly a quarter 

Prime Miniater for an unbroken period of neariy qu 
century. Of Churchill it haa been aaid, 


•No one who haa really atudiedChmehiU ^nhon^^^^^^^^^^ 

he enjoys being out of Q2i«- ,rt,iT« of his long political 

years he has spent out of ' AtameA of the time when 

life, he has hated. Every hour he has dieam^ ott 

he could return, once more, to a position i 
authority." 

Herbert Morrison relates an *“***“?’"^ ?Hn^h^ first term of 
velt. Once when ajnding for a 

office as American President whether p pf the United 

secondterm.hereplied.'Mornson.l^ng prime Minister 

States is a tetrlble job. I am. so to jeak| »a|.d a very hard 
and patty leader in a very ^‘^/J^^'Mevcrthelcss, says Morrl- 
life. Who would want a se«nd term? Nevertn 7^^ 

son, Roosevelt had a second term and indeed ttui ^ ^ 

a fourth before his much 

surprising therefore if Nehru, m his a critics are not 

ZiUinJ to allow 'rivals near the 

wholly wrong when they surest that N ., ■whose pre- 
plan to lemwe from the Callnel artain coUeagucs wn 
sence had proved embarrassing to him. 


SHASTRI'S REMARKABLE CAREER 

What sort of man was Nehru's ^eat- 

simple and oncere man. He did become a world 

ness of Nehru. India’s first Prime Minister had become a 

figure even before he took over that high ^ of 

bS Shastri was practically unkno^ j^r been overseas, 

his election as Prime Minister. Nevertheless 

Nepal was the only foreign country he had vinted. 

Shastri’s career had been really remarkable. 

» riiurchiH by bw Contemporarie*, edited by Cbarles^de '®* 

I Government ond Parliament Herbert Morrison (Oxford). 

»3» 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


Lai Bahadur Srivastava was bom on October 2, 1904 in a 
poor family in Benaras. Having lost his father while still an in- 
fant, he had considerable diSiculty in pursuing his education. 
His studies were interrupted in 1921 when he took an active part 
in Gandkian politics. But after a short while, he joined the Kasi 
Vidyapeeth, a nationalist institution run by well-known scholars 
like Dr Bhagavandas and Acharya Narendra Dev; and after a 
study for four years he took the degree of Shastri* in philosophy 
in the first division. Shastri thereafter became a life-member of 
—If. ^he People Society founded by Lala Lajpat Rai. 

This society, like the more famous Servants of India Society 
great Copal Krishna Gokhale in 1905, was estab- 
Iished to train a band of young men who would work enthusias- 
rtcally and unselfishly for the uplift of the poor and for the 
development of the country in every sphere. Membership of the 
Sooety gave Shastri opportunities to come into dose contact 
■wth the masses and study their needs and aspirations. Shastri 
also actively participated in the dvil disobedience movement 
Whitt landed him In jail on several occasions. He had spent a 
total ox nine years in jail and he devoted most of his time there 
to reading books on politics and philosophy. 

Shastri and Nehru worked together dosely in the Congress in 
many capaaties. Among the important offices held by him in 
the Confess organizarion in the thirties were those of Secretary 
j r’’' ConSTtss Comratlees at 

AUahabad, and General Secretary of the United Provinces Con- 
Shastri s membership of the ADahabad Muni- 
opal Board for seven years and the Allahabad Improvement 
Trast for fonr years also helped him to accptire considmble prac- 
ui handling public affairs, which stood him in 
good stead in his mimsterial career. 

Mme a 7 p f administrative eaperienee. After serving for some 
time as Parliamentary Secretary to Pandit Goblnd B Jabh Pant, 

£; ssj' ■' i£LTsJe]'bS'".i £ 

under the Seeretjey n( the Indian National Consees. 

■ 3 » 



AFTER NEHRU — SHASTRI 

the Chief Minlslcr of Ullor Podah, Shf ^ wk apginle^ 
.947 M Minister of PoUce and Transport In he aatte Strte. R 
j’S later he |olned Nehru's Cahinet as Min. ter to toiwV 
and Transport in svhich capeity 

proving the efficiency of Im^pnities to third clus 

ihe public sector-aod in piovid.ng 

passengets. But two maior accidents at . <rc. gjst 

country’s confidence in the railway adml ,nefi in which 
accident took place at Mehhoobnagar 7 , 
t.i lives wete lost; and three months later 
Ariyalu, in which .44 prsons died. SSers 

charge of railways, assumed moral respons.b.l.ty for the disasters 

and resigned in November 1956. v gne-r after 

Shastri, however, came back into thr Cabinet in 957 alter 
the second general elections, in whlA he p a) portfolio of 

achieving sdetory to the Congress. He was g.sen the prtfoliom 

Transport and Communications which he held 

He thfn handled Commerce and Industry until Apri 1961 when 

Chinese invasion, and strained relations tatwee^ew Uem a 
Kathmandu; and in dealing with these 
firmness, tact and statesmanship and >1.'''^/ 

Cfl,“Xh"c]“pS? 7 hJ wm^^^ H" Ids election as Prime 
Minister in Trine 1964. 

SHASTRl'S CABINET 

»33 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


be fully justified in view of the vastness of the country and the 
nature of the problems confronting it. But the Cabinet he formed 
in June 1964 was bigger by only two than what it was at the 
time of Nehru’s death. Shastri’s Cabinet in the beginning con- 
sisted of sixteen Ministers. In addition, there were ^teen Minis- 
ters of State and twenty Deputy Ministers. Of the Cabinet Min- 
isters, seven were above sixty years of age, namely, Dasappa 
seventy, Nanda sixty-five, Krishnamachari sixty-five, Tyagi 
sixty-five, Patil sixty-four, Chagla sixty-four and Satyanarain 
Sinha sixt)'-four. Bght Ministers were below sixty, namely, 
Kabir fifty-eight, Swaran Singh fifty-seven, Subramaniam fifty- 
four, Sanjiva Reddy fifty-one, A. Sen fifty -one, Chavan fifty-one, 
Mrs. Gandhi forty-seven and Sanjivayya forty-three; Shastri him- 
self was sixty. 


Shastri retained most of the ministers who had worked under 
Nehro. There were only three new additions — Mrs Indira 
Gandm, Sanjiva Reddy and S. K. Pali). Patil was already a mem- 
ber of the Lok Sabha. He was the Food Minister in Nehru’s 
Cabinet from August 1959 until he resigned in August 1963. 
^s Gandhi and Sanjiva Reddy were not members of the Lok 
Sabha at the time of their appointment, but subseouently were 
elected to the Rajya Sabha. 

The ranking of Ministers caused considerable embarrassment 
to the nw Prime Minister. He was keen to bring Moiarji Desai 
into the Cabinet not only because of his long ministerial experi- 
ence but because he had gracefully agreed to permit him to be 
elects unopposed as the Prime Minister. But Desai insisted that 
he should get the second rank since he had held it previously 
under Nehru until his resignation under the Kamaraj Plan. He 
was not very particular about the portfolio that might be assigned 
to him but he was adamant in being ranked second. The second 
tank was held by Nanda; and he was equally keen to retain it 
^use he had acted as Prime Minister for twelve days following 
tile third rank but he 
r* ,k hy Krishnamachari and the 

fourth by Mrs Indira Gandhi. 

As regards the distribution of work, Shastri himself took over 
^e F«rtfohos formerly held by Nehru, namely. Foreign Affairs 
and Atomic Energy. He also assumed the Chairmanship of the 


»34 



AFTER NEHRU— SHASTRI 


Planning Commission. Other important changes were the follow- 
ing: Swaran Singh was switched over from Food and Agricul- 
ture to Industry and Supply,* C Subramaniam was transferred 
from Steel to Food and Agriculture and Sanjiva Reddy, a new 
entrant, was given Steel and Mines. H. C. Dasappa was shifted 
from Railways to Irrigation and Power which, in the last phase 
of Nehru’s Premiership, was handled by a Minister of State. Patil 
was given Railways which Nehru had offered to him in 1963 and 
which he declined for reasons cixplained earlier. The other Cabi- 
net Ministers were left undisturbed in charge of the poirfolios 
they were holding under Nehni. 

At the level of Minister of State, the only notable change 
(apart from reallocation of certain portfolios) was that the Minis- 
ter for International Trade was designated Minister of Com- 
merce, and cotton textiles, jute and sericulture were transferred 
back to this Ministry from the Ministry of Industry. 

The number of Deputy Ministers was reduced from twenty- 
two to twent)', with some changes in their assignments. 

However, within six weeks after the formation of the Cabinet, 
Shastri felt compelled, because of fll-bcahh, to give up External 
Affairs. This portfolio was entrusted to Sardar Swaran Singh. 
This change was widely welcomed in the country beausefor the 
first time India had a whole-time Cabinet Minister to look after 
the important portfolio of External Affairs. Now the Prime 
Minister was able to devote more attention to domestic 
problems, particularly to the task of ensuring ccKjidination 
among his colleagues. The choiceof Swaran Singh was considered 
appropriate since he had travelled widely and played a leading 
role in many delicate negotiatioDS between India and Pakistan as 
well as on certain other occasions. H. C. Dasappa was transferred 
to Industry and Supply and K. L. Rao, Minister of State, was 
given independent charge of Irrigation and Power, which he was 
holding under Nehru. 

‘ The Economise. London, commcnteil as feJtows on the new asnsainent for 
Swaran Seagh : The most encouragiBS change, perhaps, is the replatement at 
the Food Ministry of Saidat Swaran Singh, whose considerable talents, while 
he hdd that post, were vigorously devo^ to international affairs, by C. 
Subramaniam. Subramaniam was dut tare du'ng. a successfut Steel bCnister. 
He might yet be that rarer tMng. a successful Food Minister. India could 
certainly do with one.’ 


»35 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


Shastri’s Cabinet appeared more homogeneous than it was 
under Nehru. But the allocation of portfolios in some respects 
did not seem quite rational. For instance, the Minister of Law 
was given charge of subjects like village industries and welfare 
of backward classes. The Ministry of Petroleum and Chemicals 
dealt with the International Congress of Orientalists, revision of 
gazetteers and the Muslim Wakfs Act. The combination of Com- 
munications and Parliamentary Affairs also seemed rather incon- 
gruous. Besides, the way in which subjects relating to Commerce 
and Indust^ were split up and assigned to different persons was 
not conducive to maximum efficiency. For example, while steel 
was looked after by a Cabinet Minister, Industry and Heavy 
Engineering were assigned to a Minister of State. The Minister of 
Commerce was not given a place in the Cabinet though he dealt 
with a major assignment like export promotion which was of 
great importance to the economy. The allotment of portfolios 
seemed to have been done in some cases for satisfying the desires 
of individual ministers rather than from the point of administra- 
tive convenience or efficiency. 

The most powerful and influential ministers in Shastri's Cabi- 
Nanda, Patil. Mrs Gandhi and Sanjiva 
Reddy. Thc>' constituted the ‘inner Cabinet’.* Krishnamachari’s 
iwwer arose from his deep knowledge of economic problems and 
the key portfolio of Finance which he handled with great abilit>% 
As Finance Minister he wielded considerable authority over other 
departments and over the Planning Commission. As Blake points 
out in his book. The Unknown Prime Minister, the office of the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer 'gives its holder great authority and 
power. There IS none other except the Prime Ministership which 
pves such influence or starring point of Influence when in right 
hands. It was significant that when Shastri was unable to go to 
London to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Confer- 
^ Krishnamachari who represented him 
and not Nanda although he was second in rank in the Cabinet. 
Knshnamachan. however, had to submit his resignation in 

Jm* ‘“5 ae •inaw cibinef. «y, lohn P. Mjctin- 

coofldaiee. ’ ’ ” possession of the Prime Minister’s 

ij6 



AFTER NEHRU — SHASTRI 


December 1965 due to the dtcumsBtrces which are explained in 

^&rKSderahleinflnencebe«^^^^^^^^^^ 

seniority which entitled him to prrade over 

the absence of the Prime Minister, he was m *a'Ee of ^ mpor ^ 

tant department of Home Affairs. HiS cruw 0 g pnbance his 

though not spectacularly successfu . had helped “ enhan« his 

repuration. S.^ Patil. a leader of alHndia f™'- ™ 

ablest organizer, orator and parliamentarian in 

Mrs Gandhi, although she lacW premous 

commanded great prestige in the Congr^an 

Her assignment, namely. Information and ”1,5 

important in terms of power but. significan y. 

foiith rank in the Cabinet, the same that Shastti had held since 

January 1964 untU his election as Pmc 

HSg^d^te’'^rt in'lS^mte" 959 on hi 

fyt^Srn^iS'rATlra Sh! Reddy, moreover, was 
not a member of Parliament. _ both in the 

His appointment therefore ame in 

objected to Reddy's ® y °^nly a few 

Court had passed an adverse verdict agaimt him y 
months eaiUer. The Speaker, however, ruled ; 


•We are not here to dedde who is to be 

not. It is for the Prime Minister to appoint his Cabinet. It is 


*37 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

the Prime Minister to take into his Cabinet those persons who 
he thinks would suit or would be proper or would be honest . . . 
It is for him to decide and not for this House to decide. Once he 
is appointed, the only remedy that this House has got is that it 
might move a vote of no-confidence.' 

It is believed that Reddy was chosen as a Minister because he 
had played, along with Kamaraj and other leaders, a crucial part 
in getting Shastri elected as Prime Minister; and this explained 
Reddy's influence in the Cabinet. 

Shastri introduced some important changes in regard to the 
working of the Cabinet. In the first place, he set up his own 
Secretariat. Nehru too had his Secretariat to assist him but, accor- 
ding to K. Rangaswami, Political Conespondent of The Hindu, 
it was 

'a kind of private office and it was not a ScCTetariat in the real 
wnse of the term. It had never been the function of the former 
Prime Minister’s Seaetariat to keep abreast of events and draw 
the Prime Minister’s attention to important developments in the 
country.' 

Shastn’s Seaetariat however, was organized diflerently. Its main 
work was to keep the Prime Minister informed of major develop- 
ments in India and abroad and their implications. It was headed 
by L. K. Jha, a senior ics officer. There were also two Joint 
Seaetaries, in addition to the other staff. The Cabinet Seaetariat 
rontmued, u before, to deal with the coordination of work at 
the seaetariat level. Anxiety was expressed in certain quarters 
that a f^-fledged seaetariat for the Prime Minister was likely to 
lead to friction and misunderstanding between him and his col- 
logues. But so long as Shastri remained as the Prime Minister 
there was no serious conflict. 

^e s«ond major change introduced by Shastri was in the 
sphere of public relations. Cabinet decisions, which were not of a 
confidential nature, were rdcased to the Press by the Cabinet 
Seaetary at the end of every meeting. The proposal to inform 
the Press of Cabinet decisions was seriously considered by Nehru 
on several occasions. But he did not seem to favour it. Some idea 
138 



after NEHRU — SHASTRl 

of the icacHon of tie Press to Stortrj's 

the report that appeared in The Hindu of Augu - 9 

The dedsioos taken by the Cabinet at its to mo 

not particularly apectacular. Onc deanon Another 

association with the internation^ ^ 'nelhi A third was the 
relates to the setting up of a m MU. A ttard w^^^^ 

appointment of a judge for some j . Bnt if the 

decisions are being announced should ^ 

subjects on which decisions are r^ched f “hubs, 

the same character as were consrdm^ at the to twojneen^ 
the people are bound to wonder whether a 

all necessary for dealing with ^ j importance. 

Cabinet never considered other subjects ol greacei 
national and international.’ 

The third change intoduted^ f^'^’Synef wSirby 
Cabinet meetings at the residence of each u Din _ 

rotation. The Ptime Minister usually presided over sue 
ings. 


*39 



CHAPTER XI 


COURAGE AND CAUTION 


In his Republic Day message to the nation in January 1965, Dr 
Radhakiishnan itfeittd to the ‘dignified and orderly transition 
to the new leadership and said that Government which enjoyed 
popular support was fuactioniag with 'courage and caution , 
However, not many were prepar^ to agree with this view of the 
President. In fact, critics complained that Shastxi was displaying 
too much weakness and vacillation in handling the great issues 
confronting the nation. For instance, C. Rajagopalachari said in 
a meeting at Bombay on February 14, 1965, *I had great hopes 
when Lai Bahadur Shastri took over the reins of power and I 
had congratulated him and prayed for his success. But I am sorry 
to say he has proved a disappointment.' The Swatantra leader’s 
assessment, however, was rather unfair because by then Shastxi 
had been In the saddle for only about six months and though on 
occasion he might have displayed a lack of firmness, he had also 
acted boldly in many instances and shown that he was a leader 
with a mind of his own. The world, however, knew of his great 
courage only in September 1965 when he ordered the troops to 
march into Pakistan territory to defend India’s integrity. But it 
is necessary to point out that even before he took this momen- 
tous dedrion, he had given indications of bold leadership. 

NO YIELDING TO PRESSURE 
It is significant to recall that at the time of Sbastri’s election as 
Prime Minister, Kamaraj, the Congress President, made it clear 
that Nehru’s death bad created a big void in leadership and that 
none was competent to fill the gap. He said, 

'It is impossible for anyone to fill the role of the great departed 
leader, and yet we have to shoulder the responsibility that has 
come to us. The responsibility cannot be discharged individually 

140 


COURAGE AND CAUIJON 


by anybody. It Is by collective responsibility, collective leadership 
and collective approach alone we can unacrtalce this great task 
before us.' 

This statement acated the impression that Shastri would be just 
one among equals in the Cabinet and that he would always have 
to act in consultation not only with his ministerial colleagues but 
also with the Congress President and other powerful leaders who 
had hcl{^d his election. In fact, it was even pointed out that in 
the choice of his Cabinet and the dtsCributton of portfolios, 
Shastri had allowed himscl/ to l!>e unduly influenced by what has 
come to be called as (he ‘syndiate*. (hat is, (he Congress Fresh 
dent and leaders like Atulya Ghosh who played a prominent 
part in the choice of the Prime Minister.* 

But Shastri was prompt in scotching such rumours. In a state- 
ment in Nagpur on June t6, 1964 he said, 'I cannot effectively 
function as Prime Minister of India if I yield to any pressure in 
such matters. I will not yield to any pressure from any quarter.' 
Shastri also emphatically derned. in an interview with his 
biographer D. R. Mankekar, that he was being dictated to by 
various pressure groups. He said. 

'I can say without any disrespect to any other colleague that I 
have not consulted a single person in so far as the formation of 
my Cabinet was concerned. Even additions and alterations were 
my own. In the matter of appointment of Ministers of my Gov- 
ernment I have been seactive. With apologies to my colleagues, 

I want to keep this to myself In future also, if and when the 
occasion arises. It is but natural that I should take the whole 
lesponsihility for this on my shoulders.’ ' 

According to Pran Chopra of the Statesman, Shastri attached 

‘Spejting at the West Bengal Ccagnst F^tfcil Conference oa Mardi ij. 
1965, N. Sanjiva Reddy, Union Miaistcr tor Steel »nd Mines, strongly denirf 
the existence of a ‘syndicate’ in the Congtess organization. He said. ‘Shastn is 
the unisputed leader of the counby. Neithei I nor Atulya Ghosh has ever 
attempted to advise Shastri. What we hare done Is meant Oa strengthen the 
Prime Minister's hands. There is sothins liVe a syndicate. Only those who are 
angry for ^viog been left out of the leadership are talking about a syndicate.’ 

*LoI Bofmdur: A Biography by D. IL Mankekar (Popular Pratashan. 
Bombay)- 

141 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


the highest importance to integrity in the choice of his col- 
leagues. In an interview he gave to Chopra in fune 1964, Shastri 
revealed his anxiety to form a government that would inspire 
confidence among all sections of the people in ministerial incor- 
ruptibility. 'll is not,’ says Chopra, ‘that he suspected that there 
was much corruption to be rooted out, but he wanted a Govern- 
ment which would win the trust of the people even if it did not 
overawe them with its talent.’ 

Apart from the formation of the Cabinet, there were also other 
instances where Shastn took the decisions by himself. The most 
conspimous example was in regard to the manufacture of the 
atom bomb. When early in October 1964. China exploded the 
bomb, Indian public opinion was greatly alarmed. The explosion 
lOTked upon as a serious threat to the security of India. Till 
then it w« believed that China was incapable of undertaking 
the manufacture of nuclear weapons because of her techmeal and 
econoimc bad^rda^ auj expenditure involved. But 

when China did expire the bomb, it aeated an entirely new 
situation for India and for the world at large. It was feared that 
vt handsof a ruthless and powerM country 

like China vroidd pose a terrible threat to India’s security. Public 
opinion m India reoctod strongly and there was a persistent 
demand that the Government ol India should immediately tmder- 
late the mnrfacture of atom bombs, irrespective of the costs 
tavolved, m order to meet eSectively the Chinese challenge. This 
1 °* nnanimous. Many thought that if 

f ? atomic race, it would not only be a nega- 

of “QiyCTsal disarmament which she had 
nmerrmre- u ^ would abo crfpple her economic 

P gr y verting large sums from productive investment to 
SLf weapons. Into the details of this 

tSf ^ fo 'ntw here. Naturally it was thought 

i* not- As soon as the public 
dftdared ibai *hc Chinese explosion, Shastri 

thT^imb W, ^ *.*** of f °‘ha to produce 

Gandhi and agsiost the principles of Mahatma 

so thecoitn ^ fn^*n resources were meagre and 

sothecountrycouldnotaffordtoembarkuponsuchaprogramme. 



COURAGE AND CAUTION 


He suggested that the Chinese threat should be coimtered 
by intensifying the campaign against nuclear weapons. If 
international public opinion asserted itself emphatically and if 
the great powers like the uSA, the UK and Russia could take the 
initiative in this matter and agree among themselves on measures 
to save the world from an atomic war, it would be difficult for 
China to carry out her nuclear threat. 

Shastri went on reiterating this view for several weeks. But 
on November 23, 1964 he made the surprising disdosure that 
the Cabinet had not yet discussed the situation arising from the 
Chinese explosion of the atom bomb. Apparently, Shastri had 
thought that a Cabinet decision was unnecessary since in any 
case, from the practial point of view, India could not afford to 
make a sudden and fundamental change in her policy towards 
nudear weapons. It is not known whether the Cabinet ever dis- 
cussed the matter subsequently. But this example shows that 
Shastri was not always acting Jo consultation with the Cabinet. 

FRIENDSHIP TOWARDS ALL 

The record of Shastri’s Cabinet could be considered broadly in 
iCTsasol ioT^ga aSaks and domestic issues. In foreign aSairs, the 
Government continued Nehru's policy of non-alignment and 
hiendship with all nations. But Shastri tried to strengthen India’s 
ties with the neighbouriag countries to a greater extent than 
they were under Nehru. Shortly alter bis appointment as Minis- 
ter of External Affairs, Swaran Singh undertook a tour of Nepal, 
Burma, Afghanistan, Ceylon and other Asian countries in order 
to bring about closer relationship between them and India. An 
agreement was conduded with Ceylon over the problem of In- 
dian residents, which had defied solution for a number of years. 
Though the agreement did not help to protect effectively the 
interests of the people of Indian angin, it at least sen’ed to pro- 
mote more corial relations between India and Ceylon. India 
participated in the Conference of non-aligned nations held at 
Cairo in October 1964. Although it did not achieve much in 
terms of concrete results, it provided Shastri with his first oppor- 
tunity to go overseas and meet the leading statesmen of Asia. 
Shastri created a good impressiem by his speech at the Conference 
*4J 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


although hii suggestion that a peaa mission be sent to China to 
persuade her to halt her programme of nuclear development fell 
flat. In making this proposal, Shastri had not consulted his 
Cabinet. 

Shastri paid his first visit to England in December 1964 and 
established personal contact with Prime Minister Wilson and 
other Ministers of the British Government. His tour of Russia in 
May 1965* which lasted about seven days, was successful in 
strengthening the political and economic relationship between 
India and the Soviet Union. In the joint communique issued 
simultaneously in New Delhi and Moscow on May 19th Shastri 
and Kosygin, the Russian Prime Minister, reiterated their faith 
in peaceful co-existence and stressed the need for a radical im- 
provement of the international situation, for eliminating the 
threat of a nuclear war, for the achievement of general and com- 
plcte nudeat disarmament, and for the settlement of aU intcr- 
national disputes, induding border and territorial disputes, by 
friendly negotutioM. The Soviet Union agreed to continue to 
assistance to India during the 
^ P***>cu1ariy for constructing spedfic 
!,r,A to ixon and steel, non-ferrous metals, mining 

development of fishery. 
fAr>. nl ° ^®°tinue to train Indian personnel in higher 

twhnology. Both countries further expressed their desire to 
d^le Ind^Sovict trade by 1970 as compared to 1964; andian 

amounted to Rs. 71.64 acres) and for this 
^ a^eement was conduded in January 1966. 

Strengthened, the 

what A New Delhi and Washington became some- 
to nottTvi a result of President Johnson's request to Shastri 
Tune 1965. The 

seemed to rr President’s request unfortunately 

dS^ Jtnpression that the USA was trying to d 

anada in June 1965 and aeated a profound 

*44 



COURAGE AND CAUTION 


impression there.* Canada had been offering substantial assis- 
tance to India for developing atomic energy and for other pur- 
poses; and as a result of Shastri’s visit, the political and economic 
ties between the two countries became closer. In the same month, 
Shastii played a prominent part in the Commonwealth Prime 
Ministers’ Conference in London. He made a constructive contri- 
bution to the discussions at the Conference on major issues par- 
ticularly those relating to Vietnam and Southern Rhodesia. 

Although Shastri succeeded in maintaining the friendship of 
the 'Western bloc and the Conununist bloc, thereby getting sub- 
stantial aid from both, his efforts to promote amity with Pakistan 
did not meet with immediate success, irom time to time, there 
were many inddents on the Indo-Pafcistani border which often 
led to loss of lives on both sides and aeated tension between the 
two countries. The dispute over the Rann of Kutch in May-June 
196s took a violent turn and at one time it looked as if it would 
breakout intoamajoc war. But this problem was amicably settled 
through the initiative and goodwill of Prime IvTinister Wilson. 

CABINET AND THE KASHMIR WAR 
The Indo-Paldstani agreement on the Kutch-Sind border signed 
on June 30, igdy was expected to reduce tension and promote 
friendship between the two countries. But this hope did not 
materialize. Pakistan tried to annex Kashmir by force by insti- 
gating armed infiltrators to undermine the morale of the people 
and sabotage strategic sectors of the State, and by launching, on 
Septembenst, an open attack by its regular forces in the Chbamb 
sector on the Indian territory. India then bad no alternative but 
to fight back and so, on September 6(h, the Indian Army crossed 
the Punjab border in the I^hote sertor. This intensified the con- 
flict. Therewasnoformaldedarationofwar and the two countries 

‘ Claude Ryan. Editor of Lt Devoir, a leading Preach newspaper of Canada, 
wrote thus of Shastri after an interview: Thyneally small and lean, he hardly 
looks a Frime Minister and ao unassmning that looking at h(ia one gets a 
feeLog that he needs help. When talking he take* no advantage cf his position 
as head of one of the most injpwtant xnd pesudax countnes of the world. He 
weighs hU words, meditates on a point before replying and replies to a 
question as if be Is embarrassed by the que^on. He speaks in a slightly 
subdued voice and never raising the tome most of the time he contents hunsdf 
to stating facts without any ideology.' 

» 4 S 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


continued to maintain diplomatic relations. Ne\’ertheless, it 
was practically a regular war in which both sides fought each 
other fiercely, resulting in considerable damage and destruction 
to both. The fighting came to an end on September Z2, 1965 
through the intervention of the United Nations. 

What was the impact of the war on the Government of India 
and the nation? In the first pbce, the war greatly enhanced the 
reputation of Shastri. His decision in ordering the Indian forces 
to march into Pakistani territory to repel aggression was hailed 
throughout the country. It was felt that in the then dtcum- 
stances there was no other course open to India to save her 
honour, fre^om and integrity. Till then, the people in India 
and abroad had thought of Shastri as a mild man, perhaps good 
enough for leading the people in times of peace, but unsuited to 
I®”'"* Shastri's dedsion revealed to the world 

that Nehru 5 successor was by no means a ‘soft’ man, wedded to 
on>violence at all costs but a great leader of courage and realism. 

econ ly, the war created remarkable solidarity among the 
^ople. Pohtiw . religious and linguistic differences were buried 
freedorn nation rose as one man to defend its 

‘’"’“St'l »bout grealtr unity within the Obi- 
r” feilismentf Shastri toot care 

Stm in ™ '11 » ”a|oi decisions during the war were 

S »i>l> the Cabinet hut also with 

Cahinpf- Opposition. The Emergency Committee of the 

Sabanraniam. the Food 
RaUways, and N. Sanjiva 
S-h? meetings of the Emergency 

advisers i.^ civilian and military 

with the Prpcrrl ’ Minister held frequent consultations 

Xt extent^®!^ ” Cong^^« President. To 

clear Sm ""T opponents will be 

orSernemW Y ft' ** Proclamation of the cease-fire 
vied^^Se anotiE??' members in the Lok Sabha 

terlTta Hd7e"dXS.S’’S“‘“'' 


1 have heard from every side of the House only one voice, the 



COURAGE AND CAUTION 

voice of paWoHsm, of 

and territorial integrity of India, ,, ,, expressed in un- 
may be. This is the voice of the people of India, expieKe^ 

mistakable terms, through u^en the biggest source 

ment. In fact, it is this unity 7,"*® eful to 

of strength to all of us in J gttnng these historic 

the House for the magnificent support given o 
times.’ 

Unfortunately, however, “[7''Sre’aTdSsdplln?Thls was 
again seemed to display a lack ^nister a^ a symposium 

repealed by C. Subiauiauiaui. I^d l*n.s«l, J 

organized by “ho i!d tLt unless the rigid boun- 

Delhi on Novernber 6, ipbS: J?™ , ,^eie sovereign empires 
daries between the Umon Khnistnw. created in the 

in themselves, were pulled dom ft,l this country, 

administration, there would be u . tvelcome 

■Each of us is jealous of his ™pue ^;„‘'wt that these 

othetstaWngapeep ln toit. and a free 

empires must vamsh, the boundaty .-jute correct adminis- 
floi of plans and ideas must take place m e^r^co _ 
tratiou for a big, problem-ridden country bke ours. 

THE CABINET AND THE ECONOMY 
The ludo-Pakistani war it ii necessa^ » 

Swe^hrS" "s cabinet handled the economic situa- 

""men ShastTi took pW 

dition of the country ■''“.‘’'^nilties. The Plan had expected 

Year Plan had run into senomi^_|^ increase by 

that the national Intome at „f the 

about five per P" « had inaeased by not more than 
to^e^^r A. thesame rime, the populanon had 

. T. T. 

V - 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


grown by more than two per cent per year. There was therefore, 
hardly any real improvement in the living standards of the 
people. The slow growth of the eoinomy was mainly due to the 
stagnation in agricultural production. Agriculture contributes 
nearly Wty per cent to the national income. But, despite its 
cmdal importance, it had not received the attention it deserved. 
The production of foodgrains had been of the order of eighty 
millmn tonnes in the first three years of the Plan and, at this rate, 
the Plans target of loo million tonnes was most unlikely to be 
achieved by 1965-66. The failure to grow sufficient food was due 
to s^eral causes such as unfavourable weather, lack of efficient 
admimstration, inadequate supply of fertilisers, superior seeds, 
water and pesticides, and a land policy that created a large num- 
ber of uneconomic holdings. 

Industi^ production too had failed to record a continuous 
macase. The uiird Plan had expected industrial production to 
rise bv about eleven iw cent per year but, in the first three years, 
it had not Increased by mote than seven or eight per cent. The 
slow rate of growth was mainly due to the acute scarcity of 
foreign exchange which led to the shortage of imported raw 
materials and components. The supply of indigenous materials 
nv!/?? and cement was also not adequate and regular. More- 
personal and corporate taxarion. frequent 
fn,. cf policy and the fixation of unremunerative prices 

, nstnes like steel, coal, cement, sugar and paper im- 

Kabt, i * ^ moease in production. The capital market had 

condition ever since the be ginnin g of 1962. 
Mlisbed compames were finding it difficult to raise funds for 
^ f roodermation while the promoters of new com- 
response from the investing public. 
The total capital raised by non-Govemment companies was only 
1963 while it was Vs. toy cror« in 1962 and 
daWp imn X961. The Situation showed no appre- 

rmnorta^EpTT°‘ “ Government had given Sore 

im^rtance to heavy industries that involved huge Investment 

ronsiderinff tbd the importance due to them, 

It was no?o - the inflationary tendencies, 

was not surpnsing therefore that the prices of foodgrains 

148 



COURAGE AND CAUTION 

and othei essential commodities had caused a sharp incr^ 
resulting in great distress to the large majority of the people. 
While some increase in prices was inevitable in a devdoping 
economy, the steep and sudden rise created a very difficult pro- 
blem. In the six months April-September 1963 the price level of 
all commodities rose by fifteen per «nt 01 by an average of j-3 
per cent per month. As the Federation of Indian Chambers of 
Commerce and Industry remarked, 

‘The whole economic situation now presents a rather confused 
picture of imbalance and contrary movements. Production is fall- 
ing all along the line or increasing at a lower rate than planned. 
Commodity prices have been rising while share prices have been 
falling. Taxation has reached a point at which no investible funds 
ate forthcoming.’ 

Thus the Shastri Cabinet was faced with a critical situation. It 
was therefore decided to adjust economic policy m’th a view to 
giving greater emphasis to consumer goods industries, improve- 
ment in agricultural production in the short period, revival of 
activity In the capital market, promotion of effideacy in the 
public sector undertakings, greater finandal and monetary disd- 
pline, vigorous expansion of exports, more rigid control of im- 
ports, and better arrangements for the distribution of essential 
commodities. The food problem was tackled mainly by importing 
substantially larger quantities of rice and wheat than in the pre- 
vious years. The quantity of foodgrains imported in 1964 was 
6-27 niillion tonnes as compared to 4-56 million tonnes in 1963 
and 3-64 million tonnes in 1962. Other measures to improve the 
food situation included the provision of more fertilixers to culti- 
vators, larger releases from Government stocks, extension of fair 
price shops, and fixation of maximum foodgrain prices at the 
wholesale and retail level. The Food Corporation was set up to 
undertake trading in foodgrains in a commerdal manner, to 
ensure that the primary piodacer obtained the minimum price 
that might be announced from time to time, and to protect the 
consumer from the vagaries of speculative trade. 

For stimulating industrial growth, theprice control in respect of 
certain commodities was relaxed, and the procedures for licensing 
*49 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


new industrial units were somewhat liberalized. An important 
change was adopted in the policy towards foreign capital, 
ffitherto 'letters of intent' were issued only to Indian industrial- 
ists who wished to enter into coQahoration arrangements with 
their counterparts in foreign countries. But it was decided 
towards the end of 1964 to issue such letters to prospective 
private foreign investors who wanted to establish joint ventures 
in India. The Government hoped that this procedure would help 
to attract nore private capital from abroad and expedite the pro- 
gramme of indt^al development. Steps were also taken to 
^engthen the institutional arrangements for providing loan 
industries. Hie Unit Trust was set up for 
mobiJjzing the people’s savings and for providing equity capital 
to indiutry. Mother important measure was the introduction in 
December 1964 of a scheme to encourage the flow of funds from 
todividuals for investment in new equities. Under this scheme. 
invKtments up to certain sums in equity shares of new com- 
MBits would be endtled to ux credil cettiBcatts for a peiioii "f 
>!■« rtiis concession would help to 
rompensate shareholders tor the long period Ihey would have to 
Sends Pioduction and declare 

M not bring about any substantial 
mprov^ent in the Indian economy. The fact was that due to 
• ™ ■“ corporations, there was no 

eS,Sn “ "PPoitunity for established industries to 

^ « "T ““P™“ “ come into existence. The capital 
rorMm ri, “ *P"=''i condition and a large pro- 

Industrialist;, and businessmen In 
ISnS T 1, »"■> conEdenee in the future of the 

f R. D Tar. universal gloom among businessmen,’ declared 
Letinv S rt i- his speech at the 

N™ Delh S "f Induces held in 

handlhle!lf cnnunnniey regarding the 

ha^g of economic affairs by the ahinet. S '““S “ 

Ihe Union Budget tor rghj^n, presented to Parliament on 

150 



COURAGE AND CAUTION 

febmary .965 f 

SIporate sectci The ™ J^^^Wngandprlntag 

consumption such as cotton cloth, foo . j 

papeJegetableproduc^,^de^^^^ 

was either leduced or rcmo\^- The t ^ unearned 

reduced on aU levels. The highest " °„ntandon 

income was lowered from gome relief 

earned income from 82-5 Jf/down that a ceiling 

was provided to compames also. It charged with 

would he 6 xed to the income-tax. ^^^^ud “Srtax at 

reference to distribution r _P3jues.TheGovem- 

seventy per cent of the total ‘“^ome to com- 
ment ako took powers to issue t , . j exports, 

panics with a view to encouraging P welcomed by indus- 

The budget F 0 P 0 «k that 

try and trade. Nevertheless. tb«e was 

the reliefs granted to individu^ ?-,»* industrial 

meagre and^telnadequate«s^.^te^^^^^^ 

a big way. The burden of |,^dget speech that 

Finance Minister hm^elf .“pyj tax rates will still be 

despite the reduction Wnedom and the United 

higher than in countries hke ‘^l^J^^S^income.** 

States of America at ^bi„t had to perform In the 

A major task that the . -t the Fourth Five-Year 

economic sphere w^ the ,566.7 to i97?-7»- 

Plan that would be in oP?”^ . .. ^ the work of the 

Although the formulation 0 .--^msibiliti' of the Cabinet to 
Planning Commission, it '^ 5 ' ^aJticaV so that it could 
ensure that the Plan was dia 5 ifr,nJtv The memorandum 
be implemented proposed outlay 0^ 

prepared by crores. thc^actual figure to be deter- 

ho?c"." While aU wee agreed en .he need .0 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

accelerate the development of the eronomy, opinion was divided 
M to how exactly it was to be done. The private industrial sector, 
for instance, felt that when the country was not able to imple- 
ment successfully the Third Plan with an outlay of only Rs. 
11,600 crores, it would be difficult to carry through a Plan cost- 
ing around 22.000 crores. The Third Plan, it was feared, 
vrould end with shortfalls in many major fields. The production 
of food^iiu by 1965-6 (the last year of the Third Plan) was 
ninety-two million tonnes against the target 
oi 100 million tonnes. The output of steel ingots would be not 
more than seven million tonnes against the target of over nine 
million tonnes. The production of machine toou would not be 
more than Rs. 25 crores as compared to the target of Rs. 30 
CTores. For mill-made cloth the target was 5,800 million yards 
but producuon was estimated at 5.300 million yards. The short- 
in fertilizers would be substantial: the target was 800,000 
nitrogen against which the production was 
ejected to be about tonnes. 

Jte (.idtOity of the Fourth PJan In Its present 
foro was expr^^ also by the Congress President K. Kamani. In 
« ^ at the annual session of the Congress held 

^ent of India and the Planning Commission should carefuUy 
mmine the unphations of the Fourth Plan betause 'any infla- 
iiaw^ pressure arising out of large investment would again 
h^ «s severe unpaet on the poorer and weaker sections of the 

leS' ■"J“'''a'*‘ari ssar, as stated earlier, severely dislocated the 
■”* S"““=al and military, was 
Pa^on ^ ^ Western countries. Trade between India and 

SraSri, “ “Aange situation, 

raiSia '"Jostnea were greatly handi- 

m ““ported taw matSals, machin- 

p?„ ” , ?*' “"annslances. the Fourth Hve-Year 

Sv^™? >' fomulated, had to be drastically revised. The 

and impot: substitu- 
t'd no,,: attempt was made to relan or remove mch controls 
as did not serve a social purpose. 



COURAGE AMD CAUTION 

WMt thE Shastii CAHoEt R^'f,‘Sd"ot‘d°“nythSg“ 

In tackling the economic probity make It more useful 

reorganize the Planning Commisnon ^ ^ ‘t mor^ 
and EfFEcrive. All that was as^ttiE National Plan- 

mittee to the Planning Commission, cnmetlme in August 

ning Council. Its formation ws PuaP actually comti- 

.,6%nt it was only in among 

tuted. The delay was reported to he one i h ^jonnel 
the members of the Commission aj^ pijnntag Commission, 
of the new body. Justifying iB ne^. rte Planning 
in a resolution issued in March i9®5* 

■With the growth of it u Wt'th'ac'in addirton 

mission and its members. 

As regards the scope of the [J|i”|ua'lly°ot'in commit- 

will anange studies by its jpj i,Y the Planning Corn- 

tees, of such problems as may U ^ggBtrfhjJ.th^^ 

mission or the rewBenHng industry, agncul- 

seventeeu non-offiaal “ttuibEB, P interests. The Deputy 
hire, universities, trade unions Chairman and all 

Chairman of the Planning C»Bm^on^^^P ^ Council, ft 

membeis of the ^ hj be helpful to remove the 

is doubtful, however, if the pnnol^ 1 ^nn. 
deSciencies of the Commission desenbed in en p 

nEVOCT FROM THE SOUTH 
Two Other major events diinogth^gi^"BWPElS^j 
affected the prestige of the C^met 

language issue and the Onsaaff^ Hini in 

riiHy™ Sh"e°o“Spoe.te ihis provision in .he 



CABIKET COVCRNMCMT IS ISDIA 

^mtifution cnl)' hy 3 narrow nu)eriiy aftrr a fierce ccntrovmy. 
piere was strong opposition to It jiartlcularly from the southern 
Stales and West Bengal. Tlic opponents of Hindi argued tliat It 
had no Intrinsic merit. The)* were alto afraid that the people cf 
non-Hindi States « ouU he nihieetoj to seriout dinbilities and. In 
fa«. would reduce them (0 the «atus of second cJa« dtizcac. if 
Hindi, a mere regional language, war enthroned at the ofltda! 
language. 'nrcrc were fourteen prlndpa] languages In India and 
rm-eral of them. It was pointed cut. were much more advanced 
than Hindi. 

However, m«t people in the non-Hindi States were prepared 
to accept Hindi at the ofRda! language pres ided sufTident time 
was allowed for them to master it and. till then. English was 
p^itted to be used for ofhdal purposes in addition toHindi. In 
19GJ Nehru, realizing the depth of anti-Hindi feeling In the 
c^ti 1.^°* Language Act enarted. It prodded that 

•r.® ^ *** anodate offirial language esen 

. introduced from 1965. He also gas-e a'otegorical 

®n many occasions, that En^ish 
^Id coritinue to have this status as long as the people in the 
V”* that no changes m-ould i effected 

«)<«ent. This assurance from the late Prime Minis- 
mrfin.l' puWic Opinion In the South although some, 

particularly the Drasida M«nne«tKazhapam~a politiral party 
««>d for the formation of an independent Dradda 
to entertain fears about the Impact of Hindi on 
fnLrI-HS?s"!esf Pr<«prcts of the people 

Inl'nJurt Hindi as tht 

Sna rwT D’)’- h'ld saacd by all psopla. 

Partv tb. r ^dnptinp sucb a contros’ersial measure. The 
» day of moumlna. The 
toW. S. promptly arrested its leaders to prevent dis- 
Srnln ‘l' At this stage 

India reoardin by the Ministries of the Government of 

“d nrSf^n^ caused urdesptead resennrrent 

The dtculais. based on Instruction from the Hotrre Ministry, 



COURAGE AND CAUTION 

gave the taptession that '^*j^vely ta' Hindif An 

ments would be done ma^y to allay the fears of the 

attempt was made by the Home tortett y 

non-Hindi States through a h™“^* ‘f ' continued use of 
repeated Nehru’s assurance . jjar that efforts would 

English. But at the same time, he made U go, 

be made to accelerate the ™ „,eiisS it. 

far from quelling the agitation. Nan violent 

The anrt.Hindi movement rn the South Ms 
turn. For neatly twenty days it firing. Two 

During this period fifty people _ death^ Two constables 

SuMnspcctors of police seif.immolation— three by 

were lynched. Four people died o 

pouring petrol on their bodies and se S , including many 
other by taking poi^n Over and rail- 

students. were arrested. Alwut iw damaged and long- 

way property worth over Rs. » . ,v- period of agita- 

distance trains remained suspended d , 5 ^ movement, it 

tion.moevcr actually sponsored and d^^ 

was dear beyond doubt that r Government of 

deeply disturbed over the it now looked 

InaL; Wes, Bengal also 'f S”® «;y tategrity. 
as if the country was faced -h, „„ the Urtguage 

There were at least four schook B official language; 

issue. These were : (a) Hindi should e language for all 

(b) English alone should continue *5 adequate 

time; (c) bilingualism for * ^ language; (d) bilingualism 

time to non-Hindi ^ople to study tn 

on a permanent basis. , . ^ j^ost difficult and 

The Union Cabinet was then faced wtn States 

explosive situation. Shastri tned ^ He recalled Nehru s 
through a broadcast on February ii» ^ * gnxious to safe- 

words on this subject and of non-Hindi speajdng 

guard to the fullest extent the non-Hindi speaking 

We and to avoid any ^convenience ,^nd by 

States’. He promised that .^ould be honoured 

Nehru’s assurance 'fully and solem ^ ’..r j^Qn or reservation . 
‘bodi in letter and spirit without wy qu . Tygj q^as the very 
He reminded the people that what was involved 

*55 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


unity of the country and so he appealed to them ‘to lift this issue 
to a higher plane and to bestow upon it the most rational con- 
sideration’. 

Shastri's broadcast, however, did not have the desired effect. 
Public opinion in the South fdt that mere verbal promises would 
no longer suffice. It wanted the Constitution of India to be suit- 
ably amended. If this was not possible, at least statutory recogni- 
tion should be given to Nehra*s assurances. The Cabinet itself 
was sharply divided on this issue. C. Subramaniam, Minister of 
Food and Agriculture, submitted his resignation. He felt that the 
apprehensions of the non-Hindi States could be effectively dis- 
pelled only hy appropriate parliamentary legislation. O. V. 
Alagesan, Minister of State for Petroleum and Chemicals, also 
resigned for the same reason. 

Within a few days, however, both Subramaniam and Alagesan 
wthdrcw their resignation after Shastri had assured them that 
steps would be taken to safeguard fully the interests of the 
non-Hindi States.' The agitation was suspended. Bur it revealed 
some glaring weaknesses iu the working of the Cabinet. It dem- 
onstrated to the world that the Cabinet bad not carefuUy worked 
out the Impliations of the language policy. No attempt had 
been made to educate and erdignien public opinion on sudi a 
vital matter. Cabinet Miiusters like Asok Sen and S. K. Patil 
publicly put forward certain solutions to the problem in thnr 
individual capacity, forgetting that in a parliamentary democracy 
the Cabinet should speak with one voice at least on nia)oT ques- 
tions. Shastri did not assert himself promptly and dedsively 
during the crisis. His action in calling a conference of Chi^ 
Ministers to consider the language question was resented by some 
members of his own Party. They felt that dedrions should be 
taken by the Cabinet and not by the Chief Ministers. At a meet- 
ing of the Congress Parliamentary Party held in New Delhi on 
February 20, 1965, a senior Member of Bihar D. N, Tiwari. 

* Oa Mirdi 2, 1965, a mendwr of the tot: Sabha demanded 2 statement from 
die Food Minister on his resignation. But Uie Speaker ruled that it was not 
obligatory. He said he had no official ioformatioa that Subramaniam bad 
lubmitted his resignanon and bter withdrew it It was an internal matter of 
the Cabinet Ihe rules of the House only provided that If a Minister tendered 
his redgnatioa and it was accepted, thm he had the nght to make a state- 
ment. 


156 



COURAGE AND CAUTION 

addtBsing th= Prime Minirier, said. ‘It is strange ‘l-'t s'.mc ot 
your ministers talk of rethinking on the language ^de 
others demand that the law be amended. If your Catoet ts 
divided, it must he controlled. If you need our help, it is avail 

”'’Dr Radhakrishnan, the President of India, also ^ 
happy about the manner in which the abinet ' 

guage problem. In a public speech n New Delhi m Febmary 
?96 s at which Shastri and many of his colleagues were present, 
the President said, 

‘Demoaacy is the rule of law. It is a rule of 

consent. We should tr>- to achieve for al om potaes as mu* o^ 

consent as possible. The consensus should be wi , ‘ ‘ ‘c , 

democracy is rule by consent, we have to ask ou a-velop- 

we did everything in our power to avert such 

ments. Politial wisdom consists in antiapating wents, 

stalling them and averting them whenever possible. 

The Government of India announced its new 'anguaS' PoU^ 
in the first week of June 1965- Its mam ".“LS 

HUnguallsm at the Centre, that is. the use of ^ndish a^ 
Hindi for ofiidal purposes, introducrion of aU 'I-' “‘S 
regional languages as the media for the “fof he 

by ;he Union Public Service Commission, and ' 1 *'““!"! ,[,5 

threelanguage formula at all stages to study 

three-language formula students all over India 
compulsorily English and Hindi: besides, smdmts in non a* 
areas will swdy their mother tongue while st»1e"*s 'u 
States will have to learn an Indian language other than then 

“A'rtHSalysis of the bnguage polity ri b^ond fc 

of this study. But it is interesting and sig^ant ^ 

decisions on the language problem were taken n y chief 

but iointly by the Congress Working Commt ee and the Cbtet 
Ministers of States. Of course, the Prime “‘"“''JXs 
his prominent colleagues in the Cab^t are wjnjstet for 
Confess WorHug Committee: and Chagla. ^ *^^n ' th” 
Educarion. was also invited to attend its meetings during 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

discussion on the language issue. But the point to be noted is that 
the vital decision to introduce all the regional languages as the 
media for U J’.S.C. examinations was not actually favoured either 
by Shastri or by the Cabinet Subcommittee which had been 
specially set up under the Chairmanship of Gulzarilal Nanda to 
consider the language question. It is believed that Kamara), the 
Congress President, played a auciat role in arriving at this ded* 
sion. He was reported to have argued that since the regional 
languages were rapidly becoming the media of instruction and 
examination in the Universities it was inevitable that they should 
also be used for the U J.S.C. examinations. 

The new language policy was generally welcomed in the 
country although C. ^jagopaladiari, the veteran statesman, 
strongly disagreed vnth it. 'I completely disapprove and condemn 
the Congress Working Committee's decision,’ he said. He des- 
cribed it as 'a full-Qedged disintegration plan.’ Rajagopalachari’s 
fears may perhaps seem exaggerated hut it is an unfortunate fact 
that neither the Cabinet nor the Congress Working Committee 
nor the Chief Ministers had made a detailed and expert study of 
the impact of the decision on the efficiency of all-India Services 
or on national integration. 

TRUTH ABOUT ORISSA 

Another important issue that affected the Cabinet’s prestige to 
some extent was the Orissa affair. In October 1964, a number of 
Opposition members from the Orissa Legislative Assembly had 
presented a petition to the President of India. They alleged that 
Biten Mitra, the Chief Minister, and B. Fatnaik, Ex-Chief Min- 
ister and Chairman of the Stale Planning Board, had been indulg- 
ing in corrupt practices of a serious nature. It was pointed out 
that both of them, through companies formed in the name of 
their wives, had amassed vast wealth. In doing so, they had also 
brought down the prestige of the administration. The President 
referred the petition to the Prime Kfinister and the latter set up 
a Sub-Committee of senior Cabinet Ministers to consider the 
matter. The Sub-Committee sat for several days. It came to the 
conclusion that Patnaik and bfitra had not personally received 
any pecuniary beneSt from the various transactions in which 
158 



COURAGE AND CAUTION 

;t*iuS.‘S&,;™j3SE 

t?iSSESK-4S;|SBss 

The Prime Minister thereupon advuea ^tn M Mg 

Chief Ministership and Patnaik from '•> “f^rSc'and 
State Planning Board. Both of them accepted Shistr. s advice 

submitted their resignations. nuoosition patties in 

But the matter did not end there 'ne Opp^.o^a^^^ 
and outside Pailiament felt that the Cahme . 5 against 

not thoroughly and taPd'thtly. to 

Mitra and Patnaik and that the Cabinet had A”™ ”” 
shield the Orissa leaders in order to save the ^ 

gress. In the meanwlnle, H. V. report 

Sabha, produced in the House what he . which, under 
submitted by the Central Burew oflnve g Orissa 

orders of the Home MinUtry. had ,he 

affair. This lengthy document received P“““X Ortea 
Press. Its data simed to show that the 

leaders were mote serious than had hen admittri by tn 

SuhCommittee. The Opposition there ore rnurt or High 
matter he investigated by a fudge of the " ™?e- 

Court. But the Government did not agree. I j^nath was 
pared to admit whether the document produced by Kamatn w 

genuine or not. . , , , ntxonfidence 

A member of the Opposition teefore Ohled ^ ^ 

motion against Shastri’s Cabinet. The resolution expressed 

•want of conEdencein the Cm^<"?‘»„t*ductt'a“SrerTe 
hold the highest standards of pSoL in au.ho- 

suppression of truth and by abuse of p . ^1 ; joutempt 
rity in Orissa and other States and havmg brougnc m 
th" concept of constitutional ?^‘Sd and 

interest over national “Jr^TEe of pE and 

exonerate those who were guilty of such aouse p 
corruption.’ 


»59 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

lesolution, of course, was defeated. Only forty-foxu mem- 
voted for it and 315 against it. Shastri, Chagla, the Education 
Mii^ter, and Sen, the Law Minister, stoutly denied the Opposi- 
tion s charges and defended the action of the Government. Shastri 
declared, ‘I have done my duty well and honestly. I have taken 
every step after great cate and caution and without any pressure 
from any quarter.’ He added that there was no need for a judicial 
enqu^ because its object — the resignation of Mitra and Patnaik 
had already been achieved in far less time and with less 
trouble. The Central Government could do nothing more in the 
matter. It was for the State Government to take further action if 
It could be proved that there had been cases of misappropriation. 


CONFIDENCE MUST COME FROM WITHIN 

resignation from Sbastri's Cabi- 
H. Finance Minister T. T. Kiisbnamacbari. 

lesignatioD on December 31, 196? because he 
In «oJoy the full confidence of the Prime Minister. 

9 iftTnf 1965 about ten Members of Parliament presented 
thev of India, in the course of which 

StJn ^ ^at Krishnamachari had misused his ministerial 
charop? e P his sons who were engaged in business. Similar 
the Dremrppcl,””r*xr^v even during 

stan» in flip ^ N«hru. But Nehru thought there was no sub- 
KrislinaTn-* ^ .“’“Plaints. In February 1965 allegations against 
“ Parliam^t but he emphatic- 
S tW 5 '”- of them. But 

the ^hc President, demanding 

should^ke arH ^"‘l“iry, Shastri felt that he 

ShS eh?, ‘he signatories had agreed to substan- 
^ to re&" fission. He. therefore, pro- 

whether there war a ® pilef Justice of India to ascertain 

machari obiected m enquiry. But Krishna- 

eatecoricallv In Par!ijm"^» already refuted them 

SlSd CO ‘f necessary. Shastri him- 

matter called for a d P*pers to ascertain if the 

nutter r^rd lor , drtaCri favertlgrtlon. K,i,h„r„ur|uri 

160 



COURAGE AND CAUTION 

thought that by referring the petition to a third person, however 
eminent, the Prime Minister was indirectly indicating his lack of 
confidence in the Finance Minister. As he explained in his resig- 
nation letter to Sbastri, 

‘In the ultimate analysis the question is one of confidence 
between the Finance Minister and his Prime Minister. As a 
matter of public policy, therefore, whatever the ultimate decision 
the Prime Minister may take, it has to be taken entirely in his 
individual judgment and responsibility and not arrived at as 
something which is based on the advice of someone else, however 
eminent, independent or impartial.' 

Kiishnamachari added : ‘The relationship of the Prime Min- 
ister with the Finance Minister is of a special character and must 
be based on complete mutual confidence. This confidence must 
spring from within and should not be dependent on any sort of 
endonement by any outside authority.’ 

Shastti’s view seemed to be that if he did not ask the Chief 
Justice or some other impartial authority, he would not be able 
to convince Parliament or the country about the bonafidw of the 
Finance ^nister. He did not want to acate an impression that 
the Prime Minister was anxious to shield his colleague for politi- 
cal reasons. He told Krishnamachari in his letter of December 29, 
1965: 

‘The conclusion that there is no case for enquiry must be 
in such a manner as will cany conviction with the people and the 
Parliament. This could be done by taking the preliminary opinion 
of a person who could be relied upon to be independent and 
objective. Such an opinion would help me in reaching a final 
decision as to the need for an enquiry.’ 

But Krishnamachari would not agree with this procedure. He 
said, 

‘If on a matter like thb, the Prime Minister says he finds himself 
unable to take sole responribility for deciding whether *bcre is a 
prima facie case for instituting an enquiry, in other 
judge whether I have acted in any way improperly as a Mii^ter, 
ana if the position is that in order to carry conviction with the 

F 161 



CABINfT COVJRSMTNT IN INDIA 

people and the Parliament a prdimlnar)’ opinion which cotild be 
accepted ai Independent and objective U ewntlal, 1 am afraid it 
would render any worklns of the Cabinet system extremely 
difliatlc." 


Although Krlshnamachari resigned chiefly oscr the procedure 
for enquiry proposed by the Prime Minister, it appeared from 
the correspondence between them, released to the Press, that the 
Rnance Minister was unable to function effectively. In the first 
place, his Cabinet colleagues did not cooperate with him partic* 
marly in enforcing economy In expenditure. As he cbsen'cd. 
■^ew Minister seems to think of any proposed cut in respect of 
hU Ministr)’ as personal reflection on him, and thinks the only 
rneth^ by which this can be remedied Is to eliminate completely 
the Finance Minlstr)'’s control.* lie complained that his col- 
leagues not only faiW to co-operate with him but ts'cn tried to 
undermine his position. ‘Some of my colleagues.' he said, 'arc 
arrying on a daily propaganda against me and the policies of the 
Government for which they think 1 alone am responsible.' 
Se«^ly. the attitude of the State Governments was also unhelp- 
lul, few of them tnade serious efforts to balance their budgets 
and practise fi^ discipline. 11115 made the task of the Union 
Minister very difficult because the States were Inaeisingly look- 
ing to the Centre and to the Reser>-e Bank for financial assistance. 
Ihc States in the aggregate had a cohered overdraft of Rs. 50 
CTor« as on December 10. 1965. Their unauthorized overdraft 

R “ n-Z «Kpt'oris to this being West 

Bengal. Bihar, the U.P. and the Punjab. 

^hnamachari's resignation brought out two important 
Cabinet system : Cm. the 
Sin all ^ ^ * satisfactory procedure to enquire 

n ?I, AT • Mitu«ers-a procedure which was fair 

msp re confidence m the country about the Government's deter- 
Se Si Kt“- ministerial ranks; secondly, 

Sdinifini been able to ensure effective ti- 

those that dealt 

Sver^eoS State 


162 



CHAPTER XII 


INDIRA AT THE HELM 


Lai Bahadur Shastri died at about 1.30 a.m. on January 11, 1966 
at Tashkent where he had gone to discuss Indo-Pakistan prob- 
lems with President Ayub Khan. TTie two leaders had been 
brought together by the Russian Prime Minister Kosygin who 
urged on them to settle their differences by mutual discussions 
and negotiations. The talks continued for about a week and 
finally the historic agreement was signed by the Indian Prime 
Minister and Pakistan’s President. Under the agreement, India 
and Pakistan undertook to settle their differences by peaceful 
means, to abide by the Charter of the United Nations, to with- 
draw their troops to the position they had occupied prior to 
August y, 1965, to refrain from interference in each other’s terri- 
tory, and to resume commercial and cultural contacts which had 
been suspended since September 1965. The agreement was wel- 
comed by the world's leading statesmen. They felt that a peaceful 
solution to Indo-Pakistan differences was essential for the econo- 
mic development of. both the countries and for the political 
stability in Asia. In India the agreement was considered as a 
great personal triumph for Shastri; and his sudden death by heart 
failure caused deep sorrow throughout the country. Even his 
political opponents readily conceded that Shastri had shown 
remarkable courage, patience and statesmanship during his 
premiership of about eighteen months and raised his own stature 
®°^that of India in the comity of nations. . 

The news of Shastri's death reached Delhi in the early hours ot 
January nth and immediately the President of India appointed 
Gulzarilal Nanda, the seniormost minister, to act as 
Minister untU the election of the new leader. Meanwhile, the 
Congress President and other leaders of the par^^st^rted dis- 
cussions among themselves regarding the choice of Shastri s sue- 
c^or. It was hoped to find a leader acceptable to all sections ot 
but the task proved extremely difficult. _ 

When Nehru died, the choice of the new Prime Minister fell 

165 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


on Shastri bcausc he had the fewest opponents and therefore it 
was possible to elect him unanimously to the high office. But the 
situation on the death of Shastri was different. None of the 
leaders who aspired to succeed him was able to inspire confidence 
among all sections of Congressmen. Gulzarila! Nanda daimed 
that because of his seniority in the Cabinet and in view of the 
fact that he had twice act^ as ‘care-taker’ Prime Minister, he 
should be chosen to succeed Shastri, at least until the general elec- 
tions of 1967. But powerful leaders like Atulya Ghosh strongly 
opposed him. It appeared that Nanda had incurred the displea- 
sure of some of his party men because of the manner in which he. 
as Home Minister, had conducted the campaign against corrup- 
tion. Chavan, the Defence Minister, was considered as a candi- 
date but he did not find sufficient support particularly among 
southern States. A su^esHon was made that Kamaraj. the Con- 
gress Pradent, should be elected Prime Minister but he did not 
agree. The other candidate in the field was Morarii Desai but 
rUmaraj and many other leaders did not like him. They were 
afraid that Morarii, rather strong-willed and ofetinate, might not 
get on smoothly with the party and might not be able to mobUize 
popular support in the next general elections. The Congress 
Working Committee and most of the Chief Ministen. therefore, 
favoured the election of Mrs Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister. 
Attempts by the Congress President and other leaders to persuade 
DesM to^thdraw and to ensure the unanimous election of Mrs 
Gandhi did not succeed. Desai was determined to contest. He 
thought that by virtue of his seniority in the Congress organiza- 
tton and his long ministerial and parliamentary experience, he 
* . * colleagues to be elected as 

Fnme ^mster. So a contest became ine\itable and the Congress 
Party deaded to conduct the election by secret baUot. A vigorous 
ampaign carried on by the supporters of Mrs Gandhi and 
D^i. ^ Gandhi's candidature was backed up by the influen- 
tul laders of the ‘sjmdicate’. indudmg the Congress President, 
as wcU as by most Chief Ministers. The Governor of Kerala also 
actively and openly campaigned for Mrs Gandhi. But she did 
not canvass support for hersdf. On the other hand. Desai strenu- 
ously conducted his own ' ” ■ - 


campaign. He contacted the Congress 
164 



INDIRA AT THE HELM 

members of the Parliament by phone or in person and also issul^ 
a long statement, soliciting th^ votes. 

In the course of his statement, Desai referred to the grim prob- 
lems facing the country in respect of defence and development. 
The situation called for a leader who could enjoy the full support 
and co-operation from the members of the Congress Party. But he 
said that no effort was made to find such a leader. 'On the 
contrary,’ he complained, 

‘those who by virtue of their positions had a special responsibility 
to be above personal prejudices and animus, seem to have decided 
that the search for unanimity should mean the elimination of all 
those whom they do not like. I have been greatly distressed (o 
see how all kinds of unhealthy precedents are being set up in the 
effort to claim unanimous support for the choice of a few people 
who are in positions of authority.' 

Desai said that many members of Parliament had told him of 
the pressures being put on them to prove their loyalty to Chief 
Ministers or other dignitaries in the Congress. He said, 

'While it is true that every member of Parliament has to give 
due weight and respect to the opinions of other important people, 
the responsibility and the right to choose a leader rest sxjuarely 
on the members of Parliament. 1 feel that if we surrender this 
tight or allow it to be eroded by the use of extraneous pressures, 
we shall be bringing into disrespect the sacred institution of Par- 
liament which we have accepted as the expression of the 
National Will as \?ell as the great heritage of the love of freedom 
and liberty which has always inspired the Congress. Many mem- 
bers of Parliament and other public men including Ministers at 
the Centre and in the States have told me that this is a tendency 
which bodes ill for the future of democracy, in the orgamzation 
and in the country and this has to he resisted.’ 

Desai denied he had persooal fads or obsessions as alleged by 
his critics. All he had done was to stand firmly for whatever the 
organization had accepted as its goal and policy. ‘I know,’ he said, 
-the -task •nf.djf.fta^.Minkterj.s-JJia.ve- ib.er.e£or.e. 

165 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


agreed to offer myself as a candidate only in a spirit of humility.' 
At his last Press Conference prior to the poll, Desai explained 
that he did not favour unanimity at any cost. If it came natur- 
ally, it "was good. Othti\rise, unanimity brought about artifidally 
was harmful to dieinocracy. ‘Why am I not acceptahle,’ asked 
Desai at the Press Conference. "U artifidally someone is made 
acceptable, he is not so. I think 1 am more acceptable. What have 
I done to justify this kind of argument? Let Kamaraj say that 
the organization has no trust in me. If he says so, I will give my 
reasons.’ Desai, however, made it dear that he had no differences 
with Mrs Gandhi on policy. He said, ‘As members of the Con- 
gress we adhere to the same programme and policy. There is no 
question of a difference. But there may be differences on the 
manner of implementation.’ 

The contest fox the leadership was thus keen and vigorous. As 
the polling day came nearer, it was evident that Mrs Gandhi 
would win by a comfortable majority. But Desai continued to 
express optimism in his victory. 

The Confess FaiUamentaiy Party met at 1 1 a.m. on Januaiy 
19 to elect its leader. Kamaraj presided over the meeting held in 
the Central Hall of Parliament. The Hah has acquired historic 
significance. It was here that the British transferred power to 
India and it was in the same Hall that India’s Constitution was 
made and adopted. The total number of Congress members pre- 
sent at the meeting was 516 — 565 out of 375 from the Lok Sabha 
and 163 out of 176 from the lUjya Sabha.’ Mrs Gandhi’ and 
Desai were present at the meeting but both of them refrained 

‘The Congress Party in ParLa]n«nc has a strength of 549-37} in Uie Lok 
Sabha and 176 in the Rajya Sabha. Ihr Idlowing is the breakdown of Con- 
gress tneoibets ftom vinous States-. An&n Pradesh })+i4»4;; Assam 
10+7=17: Bihar 44+16=60; Cuiarat i6+io=i6; Kerala 6+4=i<5 Madhya 
Ptidesh i 6 +\t= 5 r. Madras jt+»3=44; Maharashtra 4a+i5=5r. Mysore 
44 + 10 = 34 : Orissa i}+7=ao; Puojah i3+8=zi; Rajasthan i4+8=ia: U-P. 
60+44=84; West Bengal sa+ta=5«; Jammu and Kashmir 6+4=i« Ddhi 
S+}=8: Himachal Pradesh 4+2=6; Manipur 1+1=3; Andamans i: Tripura 
1; Nagaland t + i=i: NEFA 1. Pondicherry i + i=a; Laccadive Islands 1; Goa 1 
and nominated members in the Raiya Sabha 4. 

* On the morning of the polhog day. Mrs Gandhi visited Ba) Ghat and 
Sbanti Vana. where Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru bad been 
cremated, and offered prayers. She then went to the former residence of 
Nehru, which is now a national mnscum. stood in silence before her father's 
porOait and burst Into (ears. 


166 



INDIRA AT THE HELM 


from voting. Mrs Gandhi's name was proposed by Nanda and 
seconded by N. Sanjiva Reddy» and K. Hanumanthaiyya of 
Mysore proposed the name of Morarji Desai and it was seconded 
by Tikaram Paliwal of Rajasthan. Mrs Gandhi secured 355 votes 
and Desai 169. Mrs Gandhi thus became India's third Prime 
Minister and also the country's first woman Prime Minister.' 

The election went off smoothly. As Dr Radhakrishnan said in 
his Republic Day broadcast to the nation on January 26, 1966, 

‘The election was a contested one and its conduct proved a 
victory for sheer decency in public life. The two candidates were 
free from traces of bitterness or rancour. They both love the 
country and the ideals we cherish and our people will stand 
together as one in facing the tremendous tasks that await us.' 

However, it is necessary to draw attention to certain aspects of 
the election which, from the constitutional point of view, arc 
likely to create some unhealthy precedents. For Instance, the new 
Prime Minister is not a memUr of the Lok Sabha or the Lower 
House of Parliament but of the Rajya Sabha or the Upper House. 
Although there is no provision in the Constitution debarring a 
member of the Rajya Sabha from being elected as Prime Minister, 
it would have been better if a convention bad been established 
for choosing the Prime Minister only from the Lok Sabha. After 
all, it is the Lok Sabha that is the more popular and powerful of 
the two Houses of Parliament. Members of the lok Sabha are 
chosen by direct election under adult suffrage while members of 
the Rajya Sabha are elected indirectly. In the circumstances, it 
will surely be in conformity with the q>irit of democracy if the 
person chosen as the Prime Minister belongs to the Lok Sabha. 

The role of the Chief Ministers of States in the election of Mrs 
Gandhi calls for some critical comments. The Chief Ministers had 
also a hand in the selection of Sbastri as Prime Minister but at 
that time their participation was not conspicuous. They made 
their influence felt from behind the scenes. But in the election of 
Mrs Gandhi, the Chief Ministers played an aggressive role. Most 

‘ Under the Indian Constitution, the leader of the luafority party in the 
Lower House of ParLament it called i^on by the President of the Republic 
to form the Cabinet. 


167 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


of them not only supported the candidature of Mrs Gandhi openly 
but actively campaigned for her by persuading the from 
their respective states to vote for her.* The action of the Chief 
Ministers was sought to be justihed mainly on two grounds: 
fast, as scTuot Congressmen the Chief Mioisters also had a tight 
to take part in the elections of the Prime Minister; secondly, as 
Chief Ministers, they had a respoiisibility to ensure that the 
person chosen as the Prime Minister was acceptable to the States. 
The role of the Chief Ministers was strongly defended by the 
Congress President. He said, in an interview to a foreign corres- 
pondent, 'Everyone has a free expression of views. Without all 
the States, where is the Centre? The Chief Ministers certainly 
represent the States. Without the States how do you have India 
and Parliament?’ 

But the Congress President was not creating a sound conven- 
tion because the same political party will not always be in power 
at the Centre and in all the States. It is likely that in due course 
at least in some States, a party other than the Congress may 
come into power; and in such a situation, will the Chief Ministers 
of those States have a voice in the election of the Prime Minister? 
Moreover, If Chief Ministers are allowed to Influence the Prime 
■Minister’s election, it may be diffiadt for the Central Govern- 
ment to exercise its authority over the States. The economic and 
educational development of India will depend largely on the 
extent to which the Centre is able to enforce a uniform policy 
on major issues in the national interest; and this task may become 
nearly impossible if the Prime Minister has to depend on the 
goodwill of the Chief Ministers for his or her election. 

Another undesirable trend noticed in the election of Mrs Gandhi 
was the part played by A. P. Jain, the Governor of Kerala. Being 
under President’s rule, Kerala had no Chief Minister and the 
Governor therefore was carrying on the administration. But Jain 
rushed to New Delhi imme^ately after the death of Shastii and, 
according to his own admission, personally campaigned for the 
election of Mrs Gandhi; and after the result was kno%vn, he 

* But the 0»ief Atinirtm were not alloved to be present In the Central Hall 
of rarliament at the time of polling. Oiiemallr, seats had been arranged in 
the Hall to enable the Chief Mioisters to watdj the polling. But N(orarl> Desai 
tfctecttd to tii\» ptoetdott. 

i6S 



INDIRA AT THE HELM 

announced his resignation from the Governorship. Jain's 
was severely censured hy the Indian Press herause, apart from 
the constitutional impropriety, he had stayed away from his 
State when it was passing through a series food cr:^. 

The part played by KamaraJ in the election has ban praurf 
by many in India and abroad. It is true he managed the elec ion 
siccessfiuy. But is it desirable ^ 

dominate the election in the manner he did ? It is all right so long 
as the candidate chosen hy the Congress President is accept^ by 
the Congress Parliamentary Party. But if, as is not “ 

future, the nominee of the Congress President “ ^d by *0 
Congress M.Pa then, there may be an open nft between bun 
and the Prime Minister. . 

The election of Mrs Gandhi as Prime Ij^nister wasj^dely 
welcomed in India and in other countries. There 
critim who strongly disapproved of the ?' 

Congress ParUamentary Party elected its leader. C- Ra) W"’ 
chart for instance, said that Moiarji Desal 
service to demoaacy 'by halting the downward shde of the Con 
giess Patty towards monoUthic totahtanan ta 

dures ' M.^R. Masani, a prominent member of the , 

rKok SaL Sid, The action of the Congress 
the Chief Ministers in calling MJs 
meetings and trying to commit them m advance showrf a 
contempt for the sanctity of the ballot, 

Acharya Kripalani said that it would have 
of the Coneress if it had observed in the election the 
form of freevote Doubts were also expressed by some Opposition 
Srs wj:rr i^s Gandhi would be able to ta^e successfully 
the stupendous problems confronting . , ujets of 

It was, ot course, true that the ^werful 
the Cougress backed up Mrs Gandb, H Demf 

leader who could decisively defeat the "doubtable Mom i De a, 

Sndhi™yo'uth*nd ^Smal'chirm, her long »”d M^^h'd 

SauTtSS^^^ 

169 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


Prime Minister at work for nearly eighteen years— all these also 
influenced her election. 

Mrs Gandhi was educated at Allahabad, Viswa-Bharati, Ox- 
ford and Switzerland. In 1942, in her twenty-fifth year, she 
married Feroze Gandhi who later became a prominent member 
of the Lok Sabha. But the marriage, which was against the 
wishes of her father, did not prove happy and Feroze died in 
i960. Despite her rather firail health, Mrs Gandhi took an active 
part in politics and suffered imprisonment for about a year. After 
the attainment of independence she held responsible posts in the 
Congress as a member of the Congress Working Committee as 
well as of several other Committees which dealt with the choice 
of candidates for election, disciplinary action, and so on. In 1959 
she was elected the Congress President in which role she showed 
considerable orgaruzing ability. It was during her tenure as the 
Congress President that the Communist Ministry in Kerala was 
overthrown. Mrs Gandhi has also taken a lively interest in cul- 
tural affairs. During Nehru’s premiership her name was some- 
times mentioned as a possible successor to her father. But few 
took the suggestion seriously because Nehru himself never 
favoured it and many thought that Mrs Gandhi, in view of her 
delicate health and lack of adequate political and parliamentary 
experience, would hardly make a successful Prime Minister. How- 
ever, on the death of Shastri, Mrs Gandhi emerged as the only 
leader acceptable to the large majority of Congress M J.s and 
Chief Ministers. 

Mrs Gandhi submitted her hst of Ministers to the President of 
India at 2.30 a.m. on January 24. The fact that the Prime Minis- 
ter-designate was able to complete her list of ministers only in 
the small hours of the morning indicated, incidentally, that her 
task was by no means easy. (S^til presented his Cabinet list to 
the President at 1.30 ajn.) Mn Gandhi’s colleagues could not 
readily agree among themselves either about the distribution of 
portfolios or the ranking of ministers. The swearing-in ceremony 
took place at 2.30 p.m. on January 24 at Rastrapathi Bhawan.* 

* An unurual practice followed at the iweating In ceremony was the invita- 
tion extended to the Congress Tteddeat to attend it. According to C Raia- 
gopalachari, the rwearing4n of ministers should not be a public ceremony- 

The e*.Gc«eraoi.Genera\ c&seived Uiat the oaA of secrecy taVen by the 

170 



INDIRA AT THE HELM 


The list of the Council of Ministers is given at the appendix. 
Mrs Gandhi's CoundJ of Ministers conrisfs of sixteen Obinet 
Ministers, eighteen Ministers of State and seventeen Deputy 
Afinfsters. (At the time of Sfiistri's <fcath, the Coundf was com- 
posed of fifteen Cabinet Ministers, sixteen Ministers of State and 
twenty-one Deputy Ministers.) TIjc average age of Mrs Gandhi's 
Cabinet is sS-aj. The Prime Minister is forty-eight. S3njivay>'a. 
the Minister for Industry, is the youngest at fort>’*foiir while 
G. S. Pathak. the Law Minister. Is the oldest at seventy. 

Mrs Gandhi did not make drastic changes in the composition 
of her Cabinet mainly because of the general elections to be held 
early in 1967. Two Cabinet Ministers, Asok Sen and Humayun 
Kabir were dropped,* Three new persons were included, namely 
Asoka Mehta and G, S. Pathak and Fakhruddin Ahmed. Manu* 
bhai Shah, Minister of State for Commerce, was promoted to 
Cabinet status with the same portfolio. The senior ministers were 
practically left undisturbed except In the case of Sanjivsyya and 
Sanliva Reddy who were given Industry and Transport respec- 
tively. The Minister of Food wasgisen additional charge of Com- 
munity Development and Cooperation. Under Shastrl. Iron and 
Steel was lookra after by a Cabinet Minister but Mrs Gandhi 
gave this portfolio to a Minister of State. Similarly, Petroleum 
and Chemicals as well as Information and Broadcasting, which 
had been given Cabinet status under Shastri, were downgraded 
and given to Ministers of State. 

The other important changes were the following : The Depart- 
ment of Company Affairs and Insurance was abolished. Company 
Affairs were transfened to the Law Ministry and Insurance to 
the Department of Revenue. The Bureau of Public Enterprises 


Tnrat Miaister and orfier Afiatrtm wooM ewer even commuotating Aiagt 
to the Congress President, although the Prime Minister occupies his or her 
position by rearon of the strength of the Congress Party. He added. This 
incident of the Congress President’s presence at the swearing In ceremony is 
a very disturbing synptcua of the growing approximation of the Indian 
Government towards the Communist system, wherein the party hierardiy it 
above the government hierarchy and » recognized officially’ 


’ Mahavir Tyagi. a Cabinet Minister under Shastri, had resigned a few 
days earlier as a protest against the ■caretaker' Obinet endorsing the Tashkent 
Agreetuent 


171 





CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

was taken out from the Department of Co-ordination in the 
Finance Ministry and given to the Cabinet Seaetariat. The Min- 
istry of Industry was bifurcated into the Ministry of Industry 
and the Ministry of Supply andTechnical Development. Similarly, 
the Ministry of Steel and Mines was split into the Ministry of 
Iron and Steel, and the Ministry of Mines and Metals. The Minis- 
tries of Civil Aviation and Transport were merged to form the 
new Ministry of Transport, Aviation, Shipping and Tourism. 
The Department of Rehabilitation ceased to constitute a separate 
ministry. It was transfened to the Ministry of Labour, Employ- 
ment and Rehabilitation. 

The Union Health Ministry was re-designated as Ministry of 
Health and Family Planning; and its responsibility for certain 
town planning and development activities was transferred to the 
■Works and Housing Ministry which was re-named as the Minis- 
try of Works. Housing and Urban Development. 

The Department of Social Security was re-named as Depart- 
ment o! Sodal Welfare. Subjects relating to village industries 
including Khadi, handiaafts and Amber Charka, which were 
under the Department of Sodal Welfare, were transferred to the 
Ministry of Commerce. Similarly, subjects relating to *Bal 
Bhavan’ and children's museums were transferred in the Minis- 
try of Education from the previous Department of Sodal 
Security. 

Some of the changes introduced by Mrs Gandhi were well con- 
ceived. The elevation of Commerce to the Cabinet status is an 
indication of the great importance attached by the Government 
of India to export promotion. The extension of the responsibility 
of the Food Minister to include Co-operation and Community 
Development is likely to contribute to better development of 
agriculture. The redesignation of the Health Ministry as Minis- 
try of Health and Family Planning is symbolic of the Govern- 
ment’s earnestness in checking the population growth. 

But certain other changes seem hard to justify. For example, 
the transfer of Company Affairs to the Law Ministry has been 
critidzed because the Finance Ministry is considered to be the 
more appropriate agency for administering the corporate sector. 
The transfer of the control over the Bureau of Public Enterprises 
is likely to weaken the authority o£ tVit Rnatvet Ministry over 
17 * 



INDIRA AT THE HELM 


the public sector enterprises which account for huge invest- 
ments. The downgrading of Iron and Steel, Mines and Metals as 
well as Petroleum and Chemicals to the Minister of State level 
does not appear sound since these departments deal with subjects 
of great importance to the country’s economic development. It 
is obvious that the re^irganization of the departments has been 
done more with a view to accommodating the aspirations ot the 
Ministers concerned rather than from the point of view ot 


ensuring maximum efficiency. , 

In her first broadcast as Prime Minister, on January 26, Mrs 
Gandhi assured the people that her approach to the country s 
problems was 'one of humility’. She emphasized on the urgen 
need to inaease production in agriculture and industry, 0 
achieve a greater self-reliance in many fields, to strengthen e 
country’s defence, to improve administrative effiaency and to 
maintain peace and friendship vvith other nations. She said, 


■We have promises to keep (o our people— of work, food, cloth- 
ing and ahelter, health and ediiatlon. The weaker and under- 
privileged section of out people-aU those who require special 
measutea of sodal security— have always been and will remain 
uppermost in my mind.' 


The world will watch with interest how India’s first woman 
Prime Minister tackles the many difficult problems confronting 
this great country of nearly 500 miUion people. 


m 



CHAPTER Xlir 


WHAT PROSPECTS FOR 
INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 


From the preceding chapters, it is dear that the record of the 
Indian Cabinet, both during and after Nehru's time, has been on 
the whole aeditable. No one, of course, daims that the Cabinet 
has always done the right thing at the right time and in the right 
manner. But when we consider the vast size of the country and 
the nature of its diverse and difficult problems, the achievements 
of the Indian Cabinet should be regaled as praiseworthy. It has 
preserved the unity of the country, built up traditions of parlia- 
mentary democracy, maintained the rule of law, and tried to 
develop the economy through peaceful means. India’s record is 
particularly commendable when compared with that of other 
Asian countries. In many of them democracy has disappeared and 
given way to dictatorship. Indeed, in the post•^var world, few 
countries can boast of such a long and continuous period of 
pohtical stability and democratic rule as India. 

The question now arises how rapidly India will be able to 
progress in the coming years without impairing her democratic 
set-up. The great problems confronting the country at present 
relate to national integration, devdopment of the economy, and 
improvement of administration. These issues are, of course, rda- 
set-up. The great problems confronting the country at present 
not only on the efficient worldng of the Cabinet but on the 
extent to which it is able to enlist the support and co-operation 
of the Opposition. 

HOW STRONG IS THE UNION? 

There is, of course, no immediate danger to Indian unity. But 
this feeling of oneness seems largely artificial, created by the 
Chinese aggression and the danger from Pakistan. The Constitu- 
tion of In^a, moreover, has been amended with a view to making 

»74 



WHAT PROSPECTS FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 

the demand for secession illegal. But one has only to recaU the 
conditions prior to the Chinese invasion in Octoba 1902 to 
realize the dangerous extent to which hssiparous forcM had 
strongly entrenched themselves In strategic parts of the IncUan 
Union. The reorganization of States on a linguistic ba^ had 
created fierce rivalries and jealousies, and in the South, the 
movement for secession was gathering rapid momentum. 


Tt has been most distressing to us,' said the States' Reorgani- 
zation Commission in its report In 1956, , . L IJ 

'to Witness a land of border warfare in certain areas m which old 
comrades-in-arms in the battle for freedom have been Pj 
against one another in acrimonious controversy, shi^ng little 
appreciation of the fact that the States are but the Um 
same body politic and that territorial readjustments between 
them should not assume the form of disputes between 
powers.' 

The States even defied the Centre, and some Chief Mimstm 
negotiated directly with foreign countries for S«‘*’"8^bnandai 
and technial aid without reference to the Government of 
or the Planning Commission. Tills 

stopped only when Nehru issued a drtmlar to Chief Mijusters 
early in 1962. strongly deprecating such a procedure. Attempts 
to develop the economy through the Fiv^Year Pans , 
evoke popular enthusiasm. The situaHon became so th^ 

the Prime Minister had to call a National Integra on » . , 

in New Delhi in June 1961 and set up a number of 
committees to suggest measures for pre«rving e u JY , , 
independence of the tounhy. But these Comnnttees ^spended 
their woik when, soon after the Chinese mvasron, the nation 
displayed a strong sense of solidarity. r i„,i 

ApL from the external danpr, the personality of N^ had 

been the most powerful unifying factor. Even h . 

fteely acknowledged his remarkaUe capaci^ to weld 
varions parts and serve as an effective synrbol of a 
K. M. Mnnshi, a foraiet Minister in the Union C*net “d no" 
a leader of the Swatantta Fatty, hardly f n'e M in 

speech at the NaHonal IntegraSon Conference in New Delhi in 

>75 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


]une 1961, be said, turning to Nebiu who was in the Chair: 
‘This linguistic chauvinism can be crushed only in your lifetime. 
1 say this, despite my political differences wth you, and you 
know that I have never paid you an idle compliment.’ But Nehru 
failed to strengthen the centripetal forces and place the country’s 
unity beyond challenge. 

The formation of linguistic States is now generally admitted 
to be a serious blunder, and the decision to make both Hindi and 
English as official languages at the Centre is likely, in the long 
run, to do great harm to Indian unity. Bilingualism may be all 
right as a temporary solution and it may perhaps work well even 
as a permanent arrangement. But in the present conditions this is 
unlikely. The reason is that both Hindi and English ate not given 
the same status. Hindi is the principal language and English only 
an associate language. Moreover, an influential section of leader- 
ship Is vehemently opposed, for sentimental reasons, to the con- 
tinuation of English in any form. At the same time, public 
opinion in the South and in West Bengal is determined not to 
permit Hindi to be the sole official language. Meanwhile, the 
excessive importance attached to regional languages even in 
higher education will intensify provincial feelings and weaken 
national integration. 

Communausm and casteism are two other obstacles to the 
development of demoaacy. CommunaBsm. of course, is not as 
widespread and acute today as in the British period. Nevertheless 
it continues to exist in various degrees of strength in different 
parts of the country. Casteism too is a powerful factor in Indian 
politics. A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Public 
Administration in 1964 revealed that although caste stratifica- 
tions had undergone subtle changes under the impact of socio- 
economic and political forces since independence, it was still a 
force to be reckoned with in Indian society and politics. The 
study pointed out that modem industrial forces, while helping 
to break do%vn the barriers of caste in regard to eating, drinking 
and other forms of contact, had tended to bring members of the 
same caste together to capture the benefits of sodal and economic 
progress. Casteism, the study added, 'has a vested interest in 
backwardness , since it enables the people concerned to demand 
special treatment in terms of expenditure and reservations. 

*76 



WHAT PROSPECTS FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 

Thus the unity o£ India lests on insecuie foundations “d 
fact may imperil the future of demoaacy. Indon history cl«rly 
shows that the country stood united in the past only 
was a strong king or emperor: and when he "f 
weak rulers, the provincial chiefs began to asset e - P. 
dence; and disintegration set in, often follow y ^ 
invasion. This was what happened after the death of 
Harsha and Akbar; and it may happen ^ain, now that 
is gone, unless the unifying forces are effeehvely il'e-ig ™- 
It was but appropriate therefore that in his fits roa 
naSon as Piiie Minister, Shastri made a f^ent appea to the 
people to stand united in all drcuinstances. He sat , , , 

L dilferent parts of the country, however strong tl-ei “mp 

might be on parhcular issues, never f"8et *7 ”'Se“ 

first and that all differences must be resolved “I 

able framework of one nation and one country, ^t in mas 

every endeavour to foster this feeling of onen 

forvird the work of national integrahon started with the 

National Integration Conference in 1901. 

STAGNANT ECONOMt — THREAT TO DEMOCRACY 

The failute of the Indian econony to d'Velv “ 

another inaior threat to the future of demoCTacy. 
in chapter VIII how the Five-Year P ans 
ceeded in improving the economic condition of , 

of the peoplV ConWentlyp the difference between the h^g 
standards of the people of In^ and those 0 capita 

great as it is already, is becoming more . ..^mpfred 

annual income in India in 1963 was ody . 3 3 / 
to Rs. 12.118 in the USA, Rs. 6.050 in the UK. e.015 
Germany and Rs, 2.428 in Japan. A limitations, 

income statistics of different countries has ^ 

But even so. it is obvious chat the rate of P ? gjg suit- 
disappointingly slow. So, unless the econom ^ is 

ably adjusted and the scourge £ jndfa ^will be 

tackled boldly, the nnUy and freedom of India ^ 

gravely imperilled. Shastri, th«eforc, wv ,8 ^ ^ he said: 
war againsi poverty. In his broadcast retened to above, he 

177 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


‘Of all the problems facing ns, none is more distressing than that 
of the dire poverty in which millions of our countrymen con- 
tinue to live. How I wish that 1 would be able to lighten the 
burden of poverty on our people. I cannot forget particularly 
the claims of the most backward sections like the Scheduled 
Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who had suffered neglect and had 
endured disabilities for many centuries. It would be my proud 
privilege to work for the establishment of a more just social 
order.’ 


But the outlook for economic dex’clopment does not appear to 
be quite encouraging. The success of the Fourth Plan will depend 
largely on how efficiently and closely the public sector and the 
private sector work together in the interests of the country. But 
unfortunately the two sectors still seem to be engaged in a sort 
of cold war. The Government is determined to increase the 

S here of the public sector steadily and even spectacularly. But 
c record of the public sector undertakings in terms of financial 
results has been disappointing. On a total investment of 
Rs. 1,026 crores as at the end of i96)-4 the net profit of public 
sector enterprises (other than departmental undertakings) was 
only Rs. ii-75 acres or 2-85 per cent. It is true that, indivi- 
auaUy, a few government enterprises have been able to show 
profit. But considering the public sector as a whole the perfor- 
mance has not been satisfactory. At the same time, the private 
sKtor is not being permitted, on ideological grounds, to expand 
vigorously. Excessive taxation, controls of prices, production and 
profits, and inaeasing regtraentation of the economy are 
hampering the freedom, initiative and enterprise of the private 
^tor. At the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian 
Chambers of Commerce and Industry held in New Delhi in 
March 1965, U 1 Bahadur Shastii complained that the private 
sector had withhdd its co-operation from the Government 
in tackling the food problem. Asoka Mehta, Deputy 

Chairman of the Planning Commission, who addressed the 
meeting, e^r^ed his surprise at the fact that India’s industrial 
parliament (that is. the FederaHon) had expressed with one 
TOice .K Approval cf tk, da „d scope of the Foutth Five- 
r p an. e a vised them 'to cast off their tattered garments 
*78 



WHAT PROSPECTS FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 

of pessimism and gloom and don the armour of optimism’. But 
the fact remains that on the eve of the inauguranon of the 
Fourth Five-Year Plan the gulf between Goveminent and indus- 
try remains as wide as ever- This is not conducive to rapid 
economic growth. 

HOW TO MODERNIZE ADMINISTRATION 
How fast the economy will grow ^vill depend largely not oidy 
on the adoption of right policies but on the improvement of the 
administrative machinery. In this respect Nehru was not a c o 
achieve much success. Although the first, second and ^ud 
year plans laid great emphasis on the importance of a 
tion, and a number of influential committees examn 
problem from time to time, the administrative mac ” 

from showing signs of improvement, is becomng Ims c ° ■ 

Year after year, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commwee 
and Industry, at its annual meeting, draws pointed ™ 

the abnormal delays in arrying out 
development because of the faUure of the admmistmti ^ A 
with Its growing responsibflities. At its annual mee g i 
1963, for instance, a resoluHon was adopted, d^lonng the fact 
that there was ‘hardly any decision which the industry an ^ 
can take wthout getting the approval of the authorities, in 
resolution added : 

The administrative ddays in the disposal of ^ 

been not a little responsible for procrastinaUon . j 

The Federation cannot help pointing out tha 

policy seems to he influenced by co^deratiom oth« t^n 

econLic in the disposal of applications for 

units and establbhS^ent of new ones . . * 

appeals for an impartial consideration of the ro leaislativc 

will reveal the connection between inpfidenev 

measures, rules and regulations and admmis a iv 

and unproductive time-consuming work -diinerv 

tween indecisiveness and slackness in administrative roachmery 

and the proliferation of Governmental agenaes. 

»79 



CABIKET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

India’s civil service, on the whole, has adjusted itself to the 
changingsituation, and it is surely more efficient than its counter- 
part in other Asian countries. But any failure to cope with its 
new responsibilities is due, firstly, to the complications arising 
from an inCTcasingly regimented economy and, secondly, to the 
wrong relationship beriveen minister and civil servant. 
SociaUstn in India is considered to be SiTion^Tnous with 
nationalization of the means of production and distribution. But 
since proper attention is not given to the improvement of 
administration, socialism gets discredited, the economy stagnates, 
corruption grows and the people suffer. As the Planning Com- 
mission says : 

‘As large burdens are thrown on the administrative structure, 
it grows in sizei as its size Increases, it becomes slower in func- 
tioning. Delays occur and affect operations at every stage, and 
expected outputs ate further deferr^ New tasks become difficult 
to accomplish if the management of those in hand is open to 
just aitidsm.’ 

The relationship bet\v-een the dvfl service and the ministers 
has not always been as perfect as it ought to be. Parliamentary 
democracy requires that ministers should concern themselves 
with policy matters, leaving their implementation to the ser- 
vices. Ministers, of course, should ensure that the policies laid 
down by the Cabinet and approved by Parliament are promptly 
and faithfully carried out, but there should be no political inter- 
ference with the services in the discharge of their duties. ‘The 
relations bet>veen a minister and his secretary.’ said Disraeli, 
‘are, or at least, should be, among the finest that can subsist 
between two individuals. Except the married state there is none 
in which so great a confidoice is involved and in which more 
forbearance ought to be exerdsed or more sympathy ought to 
exist’ 

In India, ministers generally do not seem to appredate the 
right role of the dvil service in a democracy and, consequently, 
the civil service has been unable to perform its task fearlessly. 
On critical occasions, the services are reluctant to take decisions 
because they are not sure that ministers will not let them down. 
iBo 



\7HAT PROSPECTS FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 

Ministers also sometimes interfere too much with administrative 
details. This, for instance, is what Brechcr said of Nehru : 


The fact of the matter is that Nehru is an inept adminktrator. 
Decisions arc concentrated in his hands to an Incredible 
not only because of objective pressures but also beause of hu 
all-consuming interest in the pettiest of details. He lacks both 
the talent and temperament to co-ordinate the work of various 
ministries. More important, he has never shown a capaaty or 
inclination to delegate authority. The resiut has been the 
administrative jungle which he bemoans.’ 

The comments of C. S. Venfcitachsr, a tetiied member of the 
Indian Civil Service, and a former Secretary to the Presi en o 
India, are also worth quoting. He says: 


•What has actually happened in Independent India is tlnsi 
dvil servants are comparatively well paid and svork m drant 
material conditions. At the same time, they ate distmsM at 
higher levels. At district level, they ate supei^ed by 
ol dubious vittue. The expanding nature of the funcnoid ot 
Government has made the dvO servants more valuable than 
ever as specialists and scapegoats. PaTt)'roEn prefer ^ 
service in the latter role but ministers at the Centre are disposed 
to be more tolerant and understanding. As you des«nd down 
the esalator from the higher regions of die Pnme Ministerial 
Government and touch the ground floor of the distnrt admmis- 
tration. you see glaring maladjustment between de^aaric 
apparatus and the administrative machinery, marked warping 
of both, less effidenc)' and more confusion. 


Shastri. soon after he took over as Prime Minister, pledged 
himseU to reform the administrative machinery. He said: 


The administrative organisation and its meth^ .“"1^ ° 
must be modernized if it is to become an effective “ 

economic chanee. I shall do my best to have systematic attention 
paid to these mjor problems and I shall apply myself do«ly to 
the problem of administrative refonns in its vanous aspects. 
i8i 



CA.BINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


Mrs Gandhi abo has expressed her determination to tone up 
adminbtrative efficiency. In her fint broadcast, she said : 

In economic development, as in other fields of national activity, 
there is a dbconcerting gap between intention and action. To 
bridge the gap we shouM boldly adopt whates’er far-reaching 
changes in adminbtration may be found necessary. Ve must 
introduce new organizational patterns and modem toob and 
techniques of management and administration. "We shall instil 
into Grovemment machinery greater efficiency and sense of 
nrgency and make it more responnve to the nec^ of the people.' 

But adminbtrative reform b not going to be easy, particularly 
in view of the introduction of bilingualism in the Central 
Government. 

CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION 
Slackness in adiainbtration has been an important factor leading 
to widespread corruption. Its elimination from public life is one 
of the toughest problems confronting Indian democracy. In other 
countries abo, corruption continues to ilourbh in various 
degrees. But the problem in India b somewhat different. In 
countries like the uR and the u$A, the democratic tradition is 
strong, public opinion b alert and vigorous, the living standards 
ate high, and the gap between the rich and the poor b compara- 
tively smaU. 

India, on the other hand, b a young democracy and the three 
Rve-Year Flans have not succeeded in improving the living stan- 
dards of the vast majority of the people. At the same time, the 
growth of the Press, a powerful organ of public opinion, b 
retarded by the severe shortage of newsprint. In the circum- 
stances, corruption on a large scale b bound to demoralize the 
adminbtration. 

The nature of the problem b such as to defy an easy solution. 
Kautilya, that shrewd observer of human affairs, shows in hb 
Arthasastra how difficult it b to catch the corrupt officiaL He 
says: 

“Just as it b impossible not to taste the honey or the pobon that 
finds itself at the tip of the tongue, so it b impossible for a 



WHAT PROSPECTS FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 

Government servant not to eat up, at least a bit, of the King’s 
revenue. Just as with fish moving in water, it cannot possibly be 
discerned whether they are drinking water or not, so it is 
impossible to detect Government servants employed on official 
duties when helping themselves to money. It is possible to mark 
the movements of birds flying high up in the sky but it is not 
possible to ascertain the seaet movements of Government 
servants.' 

Kautilya refers to about forty ways of embezzlement: what 
is realized earlier is entered later; what is realized later is entered 
earlier; what ought to be realized is not realized; and so on. 

Corruption was not a major problem in India until the out- 
break of the second world war b^use the Government mainly 
confined itself to the maintenance of law and order. But the war 
radically changed the situation. In the anxiety to achieve victory 
at any cost, corruption was connived at. So the evil grew and 
became worse after the attainment of freedom. 

The Government of independent India from the very begin- 
ning Was keen to put down corruption. This will be dear from 
the adoption of such measures as the Prevention of Corruption 
Act in 1947, the appointment of a committee two years later to 
review the working of this Act, and another committee in 1953 
to enquire into corruption in railway administration. The estab- 
lishment of the Administrative Vigilance Division in 1955 and 
the appointment of the Vivian Bose Commission in 1936 to 
probe into the working of the Company law were among the 
other important steps taken to check cornipHon. But the canker 
had entrenched itself so deeply into every level of administration 
that piecemeal measures could not deal with it effectively. The 
general feeling in the country was that action was being taken 
only against officials at the lower level and that the top men 
were afiowed to go scot-free. Moreover, against ministers at the 
Centre and in the States suspected of corruption, the Govern- 
ment was unwilling to adept a firm policy. This was mainly 
because Nehru was so loyal to his friends that he overlooked 
their faults; and even when serious charges were levelled against 
some of them, he was most rdoctant to take swift and strong 
action. As Brecher says, 'He never thinks ill of an old colleague 
183 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

and rarely believK allegations of corruption. His normal 
response is to dismiss these charges as gossip or to question the 
accused directly and accept his denial without further investiga- 
tion. In 1956 C. D. Deshmukh, a former Finance Minister, sug- 
gested the appointment of an independent tribunal to enquire 
into corruption in high places. He said he had documentary 
evidenre but he would place it only before an independent 
tribunal But Nehru dedined to do so. Ultimately, in June 1962, 
a Committee was set up with K. Santhanam, a Member of Par- 
lia^nt, as chairman, to enquire into all aspects of corruption. 

The Committee submitted its report in March 1964. It made 
a number of important recommendations. But we shall confine 
omelva only to those relating to ministers. The Committee 
observed that integrity in administraHon and public life could 
be maintamed only if ministers at the Centre and the States set 
the arrect example. 'The problem is difficult and delicate,' said 
the Committee, and added : 


'There is a widespread impression that failure of integrity is not 
unrommoQ among meters and that some ministers who have 
hdd office during the last sixteen years have enriched themselves 
megitirnately. obtained good jobs for their sons and relations 
^ough nepotism, and have reaped other advantages inconsis- 
^ Tf M ^ Tbe general belief 

about failure ofintegrity amongst ministers is as damaging as 
actml fadure. That these ministers have held office in the name 
of the Indian National Congress, which had evolved the highest 
nf personal integrity and service under the inspirltion 

of Mahatma Gandb. has given rise to an exaggerated view of 
them fadwe to maintain high standards of integrity. It is a pity 
£ok ov authorities nor the great leaders wlm 

‘he importance of 

(iMlincr^ tk ^ tf ™^^hinery and procedure for preventing and 
Si" ? We are convinced that ending 

StetK k ^ nunisters at the Centre and thf 

? “^.fP^nsable condition for the establishment of a 
tradition of punty m public services.* 

The main lecommendaaon of ihe Committee was that specific 

184 



WHAT PROSPECTS FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 

allegations of corruption on the part of a minister at the Centre 
or a State should be promptly investigated by an agency whose 
findings would command respect. If a mrmal allegation was made 
by any ten members of Parliament or a Legislature in writing 
addressed to the Prime Minister or Chief Minister, through the 
Speaker or Qiairman, the Prime Minister or Chief Minister 
should consider himself obliged by convention to refer the 
allegations for immediate investigation. For this purpose, the 
Committee suggested the appointment by the President of 
India of a National Panel from which an ad hoc committee might 
he selected to enquire into the charges. 

The Government did not accept the Santhanam Committee's 
suggestion to constitute a National Panel. But in October 1964 
the Government drew up a Code of Conduct for Central and 
State Ministers. 'Ihe Code is an interesting document. Briefly 
the Code lays down that a person, before taking oflice as 
a Minister, should disclose to the Prime Minister or the Chief 
Minister, as the case may be, the details of his assets and liabili- 
ties and of any business interests of himself and of his family. 
The prospective minister should also sever his connections with 
the conduct and management of any business in which he has 
been interested. Moreover, as Jong as he remains in office, he 
should fumbh annually to the Prime Minister or the Chief 
Minister a declaration regarding his assets and liabilities. The 
Code also lays down instructions regarding the sale and purchase 
of immovable property, coUecHon of funds for political, chari- 
table or other purposes, acceptance of gifts, and accommodation 
while on official tour. 

The Code, however, is unlikely to be a very effective instru- 
ment for the prevention of corruption among ministers. The 
authority for enforcing the Code is the Prime Minister in the 
case of Central Ministers, the Prime Minister and the Union 
Home Minister in the case of Chief Ministers, and the Union 
Home Minister and the Chief Minister concerned in the case of 
State Ministers. But, as in the Biren Mifra and Patnaik case, 
described in the preceding chapter, the Prime Minister and the 
Home Minister may not always act with Bnnness and speed 
became of their understandable anxiety not to do anything, as 
iSj 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

far as possible, that is likely to damage the reputation of the 
Congress. 

It is abo signifiant that up to the end of March 1965 seven 
States had not accepted the Code. These were Assam, Madras, 
Mysore, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, and 
Nagaland. One would have thought that on so important a 
matter like prevention of corruption, all States would promptly 
endorse the Code with a view to creating confidence among the 
public. Even at the Centre, no uniform procedure has been laid 
down for dealing with or determining any alleged breach of this 
Code. The procroure will depend on the facts and circurastanccs 
of each case. But whatever the procedure, it is extremely difTicuIt 
in a parliamentary democracy like India’s to devise a sj’stcm that 
will help to eliminate completely corrupt practices on the part of 
Minbters. Jennings rightly remarks that ‘the most elementary 
qualifiation demanded of a Minbicr b honesty and incorrupti- 
bility. It is, however, necessary that not only should he possess 
thb qualifiation but abo that he should appear to possess it.' 
In the final analysb, the ordy effective remedy lies In an en- 
lightened electorate, an alert Press, and a strong and responsible 
Opposition. 


TOO MANY PARTIES 

An dfident party system b the sine qua non of a parliamentar)’ 
democracy. There should be at least two patties, both of them 
effectively organized and suffidently strong so as to be able to 
form the Government when ailed upon to do so. It is abo essen- 
tial that while the parties may differ from one another on many 
issues of national and international affairs, they should agree on 
fundamental prindples. especially on the need to protect demo- 
cracy, to uphold the Rule of law, to safeguard the independence 
of the judidary, and to maintain the liberty of the individual. 

But in India the party system has not developed on proper 
lines. For practical purposes, there ate only two parties — the 
Congress and the Communbts. The other parties are hardly of 
Importance so far as the Central Government is concerned. The 
Congress, of course, has been continuously in office at the Centre 
ever since the attainment of freedom, and abo in all States except 
186 



WHAT PROSPECTS FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 

Kerala— where for a brief period of hventy-seven months the 
Communists held power. So Jong as Nehru lived, the Congress, 
with all its rivalry and groupism, was able to function as the 
largest and the most efficient party in the country. The manner 
in which the Congress tacklen the problem of succession after 
the death of Nehru and Shastri has helped to enhance its 
reputation; and even if in the next few years its overwhelming 
majority in the Lok Sahha is reduced to some extent, it Avill 
continue to remain the largest political party for a long time to 
come. 

It seems, however, odd and unfortunate indeed that the 
world’s largest demoaacy has no effective Opposition. Although 
there are a number of political parties opposed to the Congress 
there is none which is sufficiently organized so as to be able to 
function as an alternative government. The Praja Socialist Party 
yfis wound up in June 1964 when about a thousand members, 
including Asoka Mehta, resigned and joined the Confess, while 
the test of its members merged themselves with the Socialist 
Party. But the latter under Lohia's leadership has hardly any 
Influence in alMndia politics or even at the regional level. The 
Swatantra Party, which came into existence in i960, seems to 
have seated a good impression, but like the Congress, it suffers 
from a dearth of talent. C. Rajagopalachari, its founder, com- 
mands considerable respect throughout (he country but, in view 
of his advancing age — he is now dgbty-six — be will be unable to 
provide effective leadership. Other Swatantra leaders like M. R. 
Masani and N. G. Ranga are competent parliamentarians but 
they have yet to acquire all-India status. The fan Sangh is power- 
ful in certain areas like Rajasthan, but is most unlikely to grow 
as a responsible opposition because of its rather communal out- 
look. 

The Communists perhaps could fuve emerged as a powerful 
Opposition party. But at present they are sharply split into two 
— the Right Wing and die left Wing. The differences between 
the two arose after the Chinese aggression of India in 1962. 
While the Right Communists disapproved of Chinese policy 
towards India, the left Communists thought that it was India 
that had committed agression agaiiut China I But both sections 
have no firm faith in pailiamentaiy democracy. Both look upon 

187 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


the legislatuie merely as a convenient jnstniment with which to 
capture power, if possible, in course of time. Moreover, rteither 
section fully identifies itself with the interests of India. The 
Right Communists look up to Moscow for inspiration and 
instruction and the Left Communists to Peking. 

The Left Commumsts have been even accused of conspiring 
with Chixu to overthrow the Gos'emment of India. Towards the 
close of 1964, several leading members of the Left Communist 
Party were arrested; and although some of them were elected to 
the Kerala Legislative Assembly in the mid-term elections in 
February 1965, the Government of India declined to release 
them. The Government’s view was that these leaders were 
detained without trial because they constituted a grave risk to 
India’s security. Nanda, the Union Home Minister, disclosed in 
the Lok Sabha on March iz, 1965 that the Left Communists 
had been Instructed by Peldng to prepare for a violent revolution 
in India. The methods suggested included the neation of seaet 
cdls, arms dumps and training in guerilla warfare. 

The Home Minister also stated t^t the Left Communists had 
received 'considerable financial resources’ from China and used 
them for various purposes. Nanda defended their detention 
without trial on the ground that the country’ was passing 
through an Emergency and therefore it was not possible to 
resort to the normal legal procedure to deal with the Left 
Commumsts. 

It is difiicult to say at this stage how long the Communist 
Party will continue to remain divided as at present. Some 
observers point out that the differences between the rivo groups 
are not really of a serious nature and that at heart they are 
inspired by same ideology. It is stated that the Right Com- 
munists fully supported the Left Communists in the elections to 
the Kerala Assembly in February 1965.' 

It is thus clear that there is no prospect in the near future of 
the emergence of a uiuted Opposition. But then is it really 
necessary for the successful working of demoaacy? The bte 
K. M. Panikkar said that whOe a powerful Opposition, capable of 
providing an alternative government, was undoubtedly desirable 

’ The pr»PeWng Communirts won forty out of the m seats in the Kerab 
legislative Assembly. 


188 



WHAT PROSPECTS FOR 


INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 


in a demoaatic system, it sras by no means cssenUal. Wlat 
is necessary,' he said, 'for a proper functioning of democracy is 
freedom of criticism, a strong and effective public opinion, a 
vigilant and independent Press, and a public alive to its rights. 
Panikkar was right in saying so but then the Opposition partiK 
tend to become obstructive when they know they a 
diance of being entrusted with power. , _ 

How deeply the Opposition parties in the Indian T^thament 
are divided among themselves was illustrated dearly during the 
historic no-confidence resolution, the first ever^oug t orwar 
against the Union Cabinet in Angmt 1965- The motion ™ 
sponsored by seventy-two members of the Lok Sabha, ™ 
defeated: 346 members voting against 

and twenty-four abstaining. M. R. Masani dauned that although 
the Opposition did not succeed in getting the resohiBon p«srf, 
it did hdp to highlight the fact that the Congress 
as much confidence in the country as the yotmg seemed to ind.. 
rate. He said, 'As Acharya Kiipalara pointed out a 
only 44.7a per cent of the electorate voted for Comm 
P areto the last general elecMon. It got 361 seats, I h^e c>>™- 
lateS as accuratefy as I could, in ^ect of 

Stood up in support of this motion the Other ihy, fn^tvfive 

g,onps,%nd dements they represent poUed 'nja 
mfflim-39 per cent of the electorate in this country. If we had 

that the ^P°^P*'Sj^tSdtcrof^Sd?^^^ 

;ro“ sevenv^o cinllicting reasons would have had to he 

given.’ 


189 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


QUORUM AND DECORUM 

It is not surprising then th2t the Indian Parliament has not been 
able to conduct itself as effectivdy as, for example, the House of 
Commons. No doubt, as compared to the legislatures in other 
Asian countries, the record of the Indian Parliament has been 
commendable; and credit for enhancing its reputation shoidd go 
largely to Nehru. Of Churdirtl it wras said that 'he loved England 
with the passionate enthusiasm which Pericles felt for Athens 
and he trusted the House of Commons as no one else.' That 
could also be said of Nehru in relation to India and her Parlia- 
ment. 

Nehru was very regular in attending the sessions of Parlia- 
ment, and he always treated it with great respect, and zealously 
tried to maintain and enhance its prestige. How Nehru con- 
ducted himself as a parliamentarian was thus described by Sardar 
Hukura Singh, SpeaVer of the lok Sabha, in the count of 
his tribute to the late Prime Minister. 'Personally,' said the 
Speaker, 

‘it was a pleasure to see Nehru enter the Lok Sabha. Nehru 
would >valk to his seat with elegance. He would give the utmost 
respect to the Chair. He was the first to rush to the House when 
the quorum or division bell was rung, provided he was in the 
precincts of Parliament. He used to follow the discussions care- 
fully. His answers to questions were straight and full of informa- 
tion. He was always eager to give the nillest information and 
many a time supplemented the answers given by other ministers, 
if he thought the information was not adequate. He possessed 
detailed information about the administration and was never 
hesitant to share it with Parliament. Nehru kept certain stan- 
dards and had left many wholesome traditions in democracy. It 
wovdd be difficult to find a greater democrat than Jawahailal. 
He could listen to criticism against him with patience and 
tolerance and could reply without rancour.’ 

But it is a fact that the Indian Parliament is not in a position 
to cope nith the vast and complicated problems that confront 
the nation. Elections under adult suffrage have adversely affected 
190 



VHAT PROSPECTS FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACV? 


the quality of membership.^ In the Lok Sabha, consisttng of 
about 500 members, there are hardly a dozen who are very well 
informed on economic matteis, and can contribute nsefidly to 
the debates on vital issues. The quorum of the Lok Sabha is only 
fifty but it has always been a difficult task for the Speaker to get 
this minimum attendance.* Even when Nehru made important 
speeches, the attendance was not more than 100 to 300. The 
maintenance of discipline has been another delicate problem. 
Walk-outs on the slightest provocation and a tendency to defy 
the Chair have been too common. And the inability of a large 
number of members to imderstand either English or Hindi 
impedes seriously the efficient working of Parliament. 


ON THE PRIME MINISTER — A HEAVT RESPONSIBILITY 
Indian democracy thus has many serious shortcomings such as 
inefficiency in administration, glaring economic inequalities, and 
the absence of an elective and responsible Opposition. But there 
is no cause for despair about the future of democracy, provided 


'la April 1964. H. V. Kamath moved a rt$otuOon in the Lok Sabha for 
pKscnhlog a mlnunum quaificatioa and an upper age limit for candidates to 
the Lower Houses of PacliamenC and State LegisUtures. Ihe resolution said 
that a candidate should not be above seventy five years of age and should 
have in the case of the Lok Sabha passed at least a secondary education test 
and in the case of State Assembbes. a primary education test. The resolution, 
however, met with stout oppc«ition and was sheeted. 

‘The Cabinet was put to great embanassaent on April a?, 1964. when the 
Constitutioa (^esteenth Amendment) Bill faded to secure ia the lok Sabha 
the requisite number of votes at the introduction stage. The Bill sought to 
aitow State Legislatures to initiate measufcs of land reform where difficulty 
was being experienced as a result of ludidal interpretation. Under the law, a 
constitutional amendment Bill has (o be passed at all stages by a majority of 
the total membership of the Lok Sabha and not less than two-thirds of those 
present and voting. The Lok Sabha has jio membeR and a minimum of a$6 
votes is required to pass every motion. But when the motion for consideration 
of the Constitutional {Seventeenth Ameadment) Bill was put to the vote, there 
Were only ao6 in favour. 

Also consider the following report whidi appeared in the Hindu of June 14. 
>964: Ta a rpecch ia Madras on June ajnL Professor hL Ruthnaswaml. a 
member of the Baiya Sabha. called for a public agitation to ensure greater 
attendance ^ Members of Parliament and Ministers in the House. Ruthaas- 
wami said not more than ten or fifteen members of about aoo In the Rafya 
Sabha were present In riie House at a timei while la the Lok Sabha the 
number averaged thirty to forty out of about Soa Me said that the members’ 
lack of interest In the proceedings of the Bouse was depressing ' 

J9I 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

the Congress, as the most powerful organization, sets its house 
in order and g^ves the right leadership to the country. If Con- 
gress concentrates its attention on having a clean and efficient 
administration and provides the people with their elementary 
necessities like food, dothing and shelter, it will have rendered 
the greatest service to democracy. The achievement of self- 
suffidency in food is, after all, relatively a simple task — it is 
mainly a matter of effective co-ordination of the various agendes 
both in the Centre and in the States connected with the develop- 
ment of agriculture. The provision of adequate dothing should 
not be difficult, considering the fact that oiu: cotton textile 
industry is the second largest in the world, next only to that of 
the United States. The problem of housing also is not hard to 
solve since most of the building materials are available within 
the country. What is required is that economic poUdes should 
be divorced from ideological bias, and they should be imple- 
mented with speed and vigour: and a sincere effort should be 
made to obtain the co-operation of private enterprise which 
hitherto has been kept at arm’s length for political reasons. 

The Prime Minister should ensure that the Cabinet works as 
a well-knit team and that ministers do not speak with different 
voices, particularly on major issues. The Prime Minister should 
also avoid the temptation to take Important decisions without 
consulting Cabinet colleagues. Nehru sometimes did so but his 
position was different. As Byrum E. Carter points out, the prac- 
tice of some Prime Ministers acting wthout Cabinet authoriza- 
tion is 'unusual and not without danger' because such action 
impairs Cabinet unity. He says, ‘A Prime Minister who has such 
proclivities >vill do well to restrain them. Each inddent further 
intensifies the strain on the thread which holds the Cabinet 
together, thus endangering its stability and the security of the 
Prime Minister in his place.' According to Attlee, a Prime 
Minister to be successful should function through a minister. 
He explained to his biographer, Brands "Williams : *A Prime 
Minister ought to keep hand on the pulse and know how his 
ministers are doing, of course, but he must not interfere and 
overrule a minister.’ Such a policy enabled Attlee to function 
effectively and at the same time mijoy much leisure. As he said. 
*I read the whole of Gibbon when I was Prime Miiuster just at 
iga 



WHAT PROSPECTS POR INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 

week-ends or at Chequers. I saw more of my family when I was 
at Number lo than ever before or after.'* 

There should also be closer co-operation between the Cabinet 
and the Congress Parliamentary Party on the one hand and 
between the Prime Minister and the Congress President on the 
other. In recent months there is an increasing tendency on the 
part of some senior Congress leaders to attacK the Government 
openly either in Parliament or outside. For example, Mrs Pandit, 
rister of Nehru, in her maiden speech in the lok Sabha in March 
1965 strongly critidacd the Government, and the Prime Minister 
in particular, for weakness and vacillation in dealing with 
domestic issues and foreign problems. She described the Prime 
Minister as *a prisoner of indecision*. V. K- Krishna Menon also 
attacked the economic policy of the Government and described 
the Central budget of 1965*66 as ‘a rich man's hudgeP. Shastri 
was hurt by these open attacks on his leadership. Addressing a 
meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party on April z, 1965, 
Shastri said, 'What is happening these days is very painftu to 
me. If we do not realize our responsibilities, we cannot deal with 
the Opposition. In Parliament, in future, wc should be more 
careful. We are passing through critial times,’ Shastri added, 
'What Is this propaganda about indecision? It hurts me. We 
should not harm the party. The party has been consulted often 
and we meet usually once a week.' The personal relationship of 
Shastri and Kamaraj. the Congress President, continued to be 
quite cordial and the two were able to work together in close 
co-operation. 

The Cabinet system of government under Mrs Gandhi and her 
successors may not work exactly as it did under Nehru and 
Shastri. Changes in the methods of working are bound to take 
place, depending largely on the penonah'ty of the Prime Minis- 
ter. Even in En^and, the Cabinet system today works in a 
somewhat different manner as compared to a few years ago. On 

* Coarider. in this coatext. Shastn’f remttks »t » njeetius: in New Delhi on 
Mirdi 10, 1965. He raid that he bad read a Urge number of hooks on various 
subjects while in jail, but !n recent yean be bad bardly any time for reading. 
Turning to a Member of Paihament who Wonged to an Opposition party 
[he Prune Minister said. “peThips I wiH find time for reading if his party 
comes into power'. The Md*. said, amidst laughter. T will then put you into 

iaa.' 


*93 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 

account of vast changes in the economic and political situation 
in the post-war period, power has now passed from the House 
of Commons into the hands of the Prime Minister and the party. 
The House of Commons seems to have become 'merely a forum 
for debate between well-disciplined political parties.' As an 
example of the waning power of the House of Commons, we 
may dte the appointment of Sir Alec Douelas-Home as Britain’s 
Prime Minister. When in November 1963 Harold Macmillan 
was compelled to give up his Prime Ministership because of ill- 
health, he advised the Queen to send for Lord Home to form the 
Government. Lord Home accepted the Queen's invitation and 
relinquished the earldom. Thereby he ceased to be a member of 
the House of Lords and, at the same time, he was not a member 
of the House of Commons. Thus for the first time in history, 
Britain had for a few days a Prime Minister who was a member 
neither of the House of Lords nor of the House of Commons. 

As R. H. S. Ctossman says, in his introduction to Bagehot’s 
The English Constitution 5 

"The post-war epoch has seen the transformation of the Cabinet 
government into Prime Ministerial government. Under this 
system, the hyphen which joins and me buckle which fastens, 
the legislative part to the executive part becomes one single 
man ... In so fat as ministers feel themselves to be agents of 
the Premier, the British Cabinet has now come to resemble the 
American Cabinet.' 

Grossman, however, adds that ‘the old doctrine of collective 
Cabinet responsibility is scrupulously maintained and enforced, 
even though many of the decisions for which members must 
assume responsibility have been taken above their heads and 
without their knowledge.’ 

In India also, whatever changes may take place in the coming 
years in the Cabinet personnel and procedure, it is cleat that it 
must fimction strictly on the basis of joint responsibility if the 
nation is to make any progress. There will be no unity or 
discipline in the coimtry if die Cabinet remains divided and, 
worse, makes its dissensions widdy known. But collective 
responsibility is not an easy S3rstem to operate; especially in a vast 

194 



WHAT PROSPECTS FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACY? 

coimtry like India where parliamentary demoaacy has yet to 
take firm root. As Jennings says, ‘collective responsibility 
assumes the team spirit of rugby football, or a well-drilled 
dramatic cast.' Even so, it should not be difficult to work on this 
principle, provided the electorate diooses leaders of ability and 
integrity who will always conduct themselves in the best 
interests of the country. 



APPENDIX 


MRS GANDHI'S COUNCIL OF MINISTERS 
AS ON JANUARY 24, 1966 


CXamET MIKISTERS 



Mrs Indira Gandlit 

Prime Minister an^ Minuter of 
Atomte Energy 

2. 

Gulzarilal Nanda 

Home Afflirs 

3 - 

Jagjivan Ram 

labour, Employment and 
Rehabilitation 

4- 

Swaran Singh 

Extemai Adairs 

5- 

S. K. Pata 

Railways 

6. 

Y. B. Chavan 

Defence 

7- 

N. Sanjlva Reddy 

Transport, Aviation, Shipping and 
Tourism 

8. 

C Subramaniam 

Food. Agrieulture, Community 
Development ond Cooperation 

9- 

Sacbindra Cbaudhari 

Hnance 

10 . 

Satyanarain Sinba 

Parliamentary Affairs and 
Communications 

11. 

M, C Chagla 

Education 

12. 

D. Sanjivayya 

Industry 

13- 

Asolia Mehta 

Planning 

14- 

Manubhai Shah 

Commerce 

15 - 

G. S. Pathak 

Law 

16. 

FaVnidcUn Ahmed 

Irrigation and Power 


MIKISTERS OF STATE 

1. 

J. L Hathi 

Home Adairs 

2. 

A. M. Thomas 

Defence 

3 - 

Dinesh Singh 

External Affairs 

4- 

C. P. Foonatha 

Transport, Aviation, Shipping end 
Tourism 

5 - 

P, Govinda Menon 

Food ond Agriejilture, Community 
Development and Co-operation 


196 



APPENDIX 


Dr Ram Subhag Singh 

Railways 

Bibhudcndra Miira 

Industry 

6 . R. Bhagat 

finance 

C R, Pattabhiraman 

law 

Mehr Chand lOianna 

Works and Housing 

T. N. Singh 

Iron and Steel 

0 . V. Ahgesan 

Petroleum and Chemicals 

Raghuramiah 

Technical Development, Stipply 
and Social Security 

Dr Susbila Nayyar 

Health and Family Planning 

Raj Bahadur 

Information and Broadcasting 

Dr K. L Rao 

Irrigation and Power 

Jagannath Rao 

Labour, Employment and 
Rehabilitation 

S. K. Dcy 

Mines and Metals 

DEPUTY MINISTERS 

P. S. NasVar 

Home Avoirs 

Shah Nawaz Khan 

Labour, Employment ond 
Rehabilitaliott 

Sham Nath 

Railwoys 

Shyam Dhar Mishra 

Defence 

Anna Saheb Shinde 

Fo^, AgrieultHre, Community 
Development ond Cooperation 

L N. Mishra 

Finance 

V. C. Shukla 

Parliamentary Afairs and 
Commumeations 

Bhakt Dharshan and 

Dr (Mrs) Soundaram 

Education 

Ramachandran 

D. R. Chavan 

Planning 

Shag Quereshi 

Commerce 

B. C. Bhagavati 

Works and Housing 

P. C Sethi 

Iron and Steel 

Sardar Iqbal Singh 

Petroleum and Chemicals 

Mrs Maragatham 

Chandresekhar 

Social Security 

B. S. Murthy 

Health and Planning 

Nandini Satpathy 

Information and Broadcasting 

197 



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A Prime Minister Remembers, Francis Williams (Heinemann) 

The Office of Prime Minister, Byrum Carter (Faber) 

The Decline and Foil of LE<^d George. Beaverbrook (Collins) 



CABINET GOVERNMENT IN INDIA 


Krishna Menoo V. K. 4i. 49. 77- 
gt. :u, taS. iga 

Kiishnamachari V. T. iii, iii. ii}. ia7 
Knshnamachari T. T. 47, 61. 64. 65. 

71. 8)-5, na, lag. 136. \n, >J». a6«>.i 

Llaquat AU Khan aj, a6, 77 
Lloyd George 53. 70 
Lohia K. M. 67 

Macdonald Ramsay S4 
Maddntosh P. 48. 136 
Maonillan Harold aaj. rg4 
Mahalanobis P. C ria 
Mahavir Tyagi 105. 116. 171 
Malavlya )L D. 89^1. aaS 
Majaviya Madan Mohan 23 
Mankekar D. R. 130. 141 
Maoubhai Shah $6, dg 
Maniot Sir lohn 49 
Masa&l M. K 67. i6g. tSg 
Mathai John jg. 77. 78. 109 
Mehta G. L 111 
Meaon V. F. 5S 
Mloto Lord 18 
Mukherjee S. P. 55> 59. 75 
Monlfoa Heibert 44. 131 
Moufttbatten Lord 9. 13. 13. 64 
Mmadhta Harldas 83-5 
Munshl K. M. 23, 94, 101, 103. 175 

Nanda G. L. 38. 44. 65. ill. lit, 127, 
137. 163. iSS 
Nanyan Shriman iia 
Narendra Dev 132 
Nawab Ismal] Khan aj 
Nazimuddia 25 

Nehru Jawahatlal 9, to, 49, si-72. 

103-11, 114. 114. >17. 138. 134. ib3. 
174. 173. 181. 1S4. 190. 191 I 

Nehru Motilal 23 j 

Neogy K. C. 75. 78 ' 

Pamkkar K. M. i83, 189 

Paraniape H. K- H3 

Park Richard 9 

Fathak G. S. 171 

Patanjali Sascri 101 

Farel Satdar (lee Sardar Patel) 

Patel H. M 85 

Patil S. )C. 38, 60, 61, 6s. 137, 146 
Pitnaik 8 44- 61. 63. 64. 68. 158, 179 


Pattabhi Sitaramayya 74 
Ptan Chopra 141. >42 
Pratap Singh Kalron uy 
Punjabi K. L 105. igS 


Radhakrishnan S. tod^. 117, 140. IS7 
Ranga N. G. 187 
Rangaswaml K. 138 
Rajagopalachari C 14. 23. 4^- 

1401. 169. 170 
Raiendra Prasad 24, 193.6 
Rao K. L 133 
RaoV. K. R-V. lit 
Rau B N. 100, 101 
Richards Peter 52 
tlfon Lord 2\ 

Roosevelt F. 131 
Rudn A. B. 18 


Saothanam K. 1S4 

SanJWa Reddy «p, 134. ,36, ijg, 167. 
17' 

Sanjivayya D. 171 

atdu Patel 23, 26, 54, 36^. 86. i09 
Sastri Srinivasa 23 
Satyamurth) S. 23 
Sen Asok 136. 160 
Sen P. C 44 

Shastrl Lai Bahadur jo, 38. 38. 63. dg, 

o.'!*’ ‘J*- '» 

Shalat Ahmed Khan 24. 25 
Shah K. T. 103 

Shawaukham Chetty 55, jg, 73, 74 
Shnniali 63 

Suhramaniam C 6g, 146, 147. 136 

Swaran Tingh 69. 133 

Scaumuin The 3>. )3, 45, 65, 119. 141 


Tarlok Singh lao 
Tata I- R. D. 76, »so 
Thaidm M. S. 112 
Tlkaram Palrwal 167 
TSwari D. N. 136 

Venkatachar C S. iSi 


VTalpsde 4> 

Warren Hastings 17 
WavclJ Lord at, 24 
WiHingdon Lord 30 
Wilson Harold 123. 
Woidron Lord 4-5 


116. 145 


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